Louise Hinchman with her son, William Campbell, in 1903. Photo courtesy of John Campbell.

Last month, 85 years after she died, Louise Hinchman’s remains were laid to rest beside relatives at Yandestuki graveyard in Haines.

Hinchman, (Tsu’si) an Eagle-Thunderbird Chilkoot Indian, was repatriated by her relatives and clan members, including her great-granddaughter and Chilkoot Indian Association tribal administrator Harriet Brouillette.

The effort to bring Hinchman home started in 2001, when her grandson John Campbell- Brouillette’s second cousin-learned from a family member that his grandmother wasn’t buried in Haines like he’d thought. By searching through archives at his local library, Campbell was able find his grandmother’s obituary and certificate of death, leading him to her gravesite just outside of Portland, Oregon. Campbell, a 72-year-old archeologist living in Tulalip, Washington, tells the story: In 1928, Hinchman’s husband deemed her insane and sent her to a mental hospital in Portland as a ploy to possess her land. She died of tuberculosis six years later and was buried in a nearby cemetery, according to her death certificate.

“I just felt that she needs to be home,” Campbell said. “She didn’t belong with the Portland pioneers.”

After years of paperwork and discussions with employees at the cemetery-one who attempted to charge Campbell $6,000 for exhuming his grandmother’s body, and later ended up in jail for embezzling money- Campbell received permission in April 2018 to bring Hinchman home. He and his daughter, Katy, helped officials at the cemetery exhume her remains under a single headstone that read “Mrs. George Hinchman.”

Brouillette describes her great-grandmother as a tough woman who spoke English and worked as an interpreter for the federal courts when Alaska was still a territory. She canoed to work in Juneau from Haines-a three-day journey–with her young children, Mary and William, in tow.

“Talk about a powerhouse,” Brouillette said.

Hinchman’s great great grandchildren, Ted and James Hart, have since learned the craft of digging canoes, and made the same journey from Haines to Juneau in her honor.

Four generations of grandchildren attended the repatriation ceremony, Brouillette explained through a lengthy family tree beginning with Louise Hinchman and ending with Adze and Lolana Hart and Enza and Carver Cruise, her great-great-great grandchildren.

Extended family member Mary Cruise helped inform the Tlingit tradition of balance and reciprocity.

“Their grandmother was an eagle and most of the family members involved were ravens,” Cruise said. “Because (Louise Hinchman) was an eagle, it was really important that the eagles were present, myself and my mother and my daughter, to make sure that we acknowledged the ravens and how much work they put into bringing this eagle home. Even though in Western ways of thinking that was their grandmother, in Tlingit ways of thinking that was our sister.”

At the burial site, the ceremony included cleaning with sage, toting Hinchman’s ashes in a canoe, and singing old trade songs in her honor. She was buried next to her two uncles.

“I never thought much about the term laid to rest, until we actually put our grandmother in the ground in Yandestuki,” Brouillette said. “She has been away since 1928 in a foreign land, and to put her there, she’s finally home. She’s surrounded by family. There’s no strangers buried in that graveyard. What more could you do for somebody you care (about) and love but to bring them home?”

The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted by Congress in 1990 to give Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians the right to human remains and cultural items of their ancestors. Though Campbell did not have to invoke NAGPRA, it is common for tribes and clans to use it to gain access to remains that have since been acquired by museums and universities.