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Clarence Wagner

Native American preservationist

July 23, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Clarence "Curly Bear" Wagner, 64, a Native American historian who pressed for repatriation of ancestral remains to tribes, died of cancer July 16 at a hospital in Browning, Mont., on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, said his cousin Walter Lamar.

As a young man, Wagner was on the board of the American Indian Movement, his cousin said.

Later, Wagner worked for the return of human remains that were released in 1988 by the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and in the 1990s by Chicago's Field Museum, officials at the museums confirmed.

Eileen Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, said Wagner also was an important figure in the 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

In the early 1990s, Wagner worked on an archaeological project at media baron Ted Turner's Flying D Ranch near Bozeman, Mont., to identify areas of tribal significance, said Mark Baumler, a Montana historic preservation officer.

Wagner helped establish the "Native America Speaks" interpretive program at Glacier National Park and often presented the program to park visitors, park spokesman Wade Muehlhof said.

Wagner interviewed and recorded the stories of Blackfeet tribal elders, and worked to preserve sites considered sacred by the tribe.


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