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Onondaga Nation of New York

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Some time after Dec. 22, the Nation will be host to a special homecoming. The Rochester Museum and Science Center is returning skeletal remains of 241 Native Americans to four Iroquois nations, including the Onondagas, who will welcome home 25 of their ancestors. The "ancient ones" will be reburied in a special ceremony, said Irving Powless, an Onondaga chief. "These are our ancestors. We want them returned to where they belong. To Mother Earth." The museum also will send remains of 141 people to the Seneca Nation, 43 to the Mohawks and 32 to the Cayugas. The remains are of Native Americans who died 200 to 450 years ago, when the Iroquois Confederacy controlled nearly all of upstate New York. The delivery will mark the largest collection of remains and artifacts ever returned to the Iroquois, Powless said. Earlier this year, the Rochester museum returned the skeletal remains of 25 Oneidas and 45 burial objects excavated from Oneida Nation grave sites in Stockbridge, Eaton and Verona. The museum also will turn over more than 8,876 artifacts - including antler combs, beads, knives and other personal property - taken from Indian graves. The Iroquois believe a person should be buried with personal possessions that will be needed in the afterlife.