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Nick Bellantoni to Share ‘Deeply Human’ Archeology Stories : “The Long Journeys Home”

October 13, 2018 @ 7:00 pm EDT

Bill Library (Ledyard Public Libraries)
718 Colonel Ledyard Highway
Ledyard, CT 6339 United States

While Nick Bellantoni’s first book is laden with history, archaeology and forensic science, the archaeologist nicknamed “Connecticut’s Indiana Jones” asserts that the work is really about the importance of family and heritage, and the ability to overcome hardship and search for meaning in our lives. 

Bellantoni will share highlights from his timely account, “The Long Journeys Home: The Repatriations of Henry ‘Opukaha’ia and Albert Afraid of Hawk,” telling of Henry Opukaha’ia (c.1792–1818), a Native Hawaiian, and Itankusun Wanbli (c.1879–1900), an Oglala Lakota. Though they lived almost a century apart, the circumstances that led them to leave their homelands and eventually die in Connecticut have striking similarities:


  • Opukaha’ia was orphaned during the turmoil of Kamehameha’s wars – which was fueled by European interventions. He found passage on a ship to New England, where he was converted to Christianity, becoming the inspiration for later Christian missions in Hawaii.
  • Itankusun Wanbli, Christianized as Albert Afraid of Hawk, performed in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” to sustain himself after his traditional means of sustenance were taken by American settlers.


Both men, dying at young ages, were buried in Connecticut cemeteries. In 1992 and 2008, descendants of both men had callings, independent of one another, telling them that their ancestors wanted to come home. Thus began the repatriation process detailed in Nick Bellantoni’s heartfelt work. Then acting as Connecticut State Archaeologist, Bellantoni oversaw the archaeological disinterment, forensic identifications, and return of their skeletal remains back to their families and communities. 

“The Long Journeys Home” chronicles these intergenerational stories as examples of the wide-reaching impact of colonization and European/American imperialism on the trajectory of Indigenous life in the new world. “These are deeply human stories,” Bellantoni says. “They remind us of how our collective and individual heritages contribute to our sense of self-esteem and the quality of our lives.” 

Bellantoni’s role in the excavations, his interaction with the two families, and his participation in the repatriation process of both men have given him unique insights into the significance of repatriation and the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, which was enacted in 1990. His natural storytelling abilities make the book a vivid and memorable read and will undoubtedly captivate all in the audience. 

For information on Nick Bellantoni in this website, please click here.

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October 13, 2018
7:00 pm EDT
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Bill Library Staff


Bill Library (Ledyard Public Libraries)
718 Colonel Ledyard Highway
Ledyard, CT 6339 United States
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