MAY 23, 2003


Born July 12, 1932, in Springfield, South Dakota, her Yankton name meant “Running Mocassins.”  Maria attended public and parochial schools, but was also educated in Yankton customs and traditions by her grandmother.  Her activism on the practice of removing Indian skeletons from graves and displaying the remains in museums began in 1971 when, as part of a highway construction project, the remains of white pioneers were reburied, but those of an Indian woman and her baby and artifacts were sent to State Archaeologist for study.  Pearson met with Iowa’s Governor and they reached agreement to rebury the woman, her baby, and artifacts in the same cemetery.  Her efforts led to legislation to protect Native American graves and provide for repatriation of remains—first in Iowa in 1976, and later on the Federal level with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.  A BBC documentary about Maria, Bones of Contention, aired in 1995.  She died on May 24, 2003. 

Source:  “Maria Pearson,” Ames Historical Museum.  Retrieved 3/25/2020,
Photo:  Ames Tribune, undated.  Ames Tribune Photo Collection.  Photo courtesy of Ames Historical Society.

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