An Associated Press story ran today in papers across the country about the discovery of a Thomas Jefferson peace medal in the American Museum of Natural History’s South American collection. The medal was probably the one given by the Lewis & Clark expedition to Nez Perce Chief Cut Nose in 1806.
The newspaper story reports in part: “Its provenance isn’t ironclad, but some historians believe this Jefferson Peace Medal minted in Philadelphia went up the Missouri River in a pirogue, was buried in an Indian grave, later plundered by Northern Pacific Railroad workers, and eventually landed with Edward Dean Adams, the New York financier and J.P. Morgan contemporary.
Long considered stolen, it surfaced around 2002 in the American Museum of Natural History’s South American collection.
Allen Pinkham, a distant nephew of Cut Nose, the chief believed to have received the medal, is now pushing for its return to Idaho. Pinkham sees it as a step in correcting two centuries of injustices since the “extreemly hungry and much fatiegued” adventurers – Lewis’s and Clark’s own words and spelling – tromped into his great-great-great-great uncle’s village and changed the tribe’s world forever.
“When we quit stealing from one another, then we become one people,” he told The Associated Press. “This is also part of that recovery.”
I’m quoted in the article talking about the peace medal and how Lewis & Clark used these objects during their expedition: “‘These objects were very much delivering the message that there’s a new and dominant government overseeing these areas,’ said Robert Miller, a Lewis & Clark College professor in Portland, Ore., and author of “Native America, Discovered and Conquered.”
Get the entire story.