Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:30pm

Nick Bellantoni to Share ‘Deeply Human’ Archeology

Sponsored by: New Haven Museum

Nick Bellantoni, the archaeologist nicknamed “Connecticut’s Indiana Jones,” will share highlights from his first book, “The Long Journeys Home: The Repatriations of Henry ‘Opūkaha‘ia and Albert Afraid of Hawk,” in a free presentation at the New Haven Museum at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Bellantoni will tell of Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia (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.

ʻŌpūkahaʻia 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 Hawai’i.

Itankusun Wanbli, Christianized as Albert Afraid of Hawk, performed in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” 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.”
About Nick Bellantoni
Nicholas Bellantoni is an emeritus Connecticut State Archaeologist and an associate research professor in the Department of Anthropology in the University of Connecticut. He is the co-author of “In Remembrance: Archaeology and Death” and has also contributed to journals such as the Journal of Forensic Science, Journal of Archaeological Science and to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. He earned his BA in anthropology at the Central Connecticut State University and his MA in anthropology at University of Connecticut.

As State Archaeologist, Bellantoni has assisted state and local police departments with investigations involving the discoveries of unmarked graves and homicides.  He assisted the New Haven Police Department when human skeletal remains were found during construction at Yale-New Haven Hospital and on the New Haven Green when Superstorm Sandy toppled the Lincoln Oak. Bellantoni’s illustrious career of adventure and discovery gained him his nickname, “Connecticut’s Indiana Jones.”

About the New Haven Museum
The New Haven Museum has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of Greater New Haven since its inception as the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1862. Located in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue, the Museum brings more than 375 years of New Haven history to life through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach. As a designated Blue Star Museum, the New Haven Museum offers the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information visit or or call 203-562-4183.

Admission: free
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