Maria Pearson

Honored by:Joseph A. Tiffany and Duane C. Anderson
Brick location:D:21  map

Since 1971, Maria (Running Moccasins) Pearson has worked tirelessly on behalf of Native American peoples in Iowa and nationwide, especially with regard to respectful treatment of Native American human remains and their repatriation. For much of our history, Native peoples and their human remains have been objectified in our culture.

Mrs. Pearson was instrumental in the passage of legislation in Iowa, the first of its kind nationally, in which ancient Indian cemeteries and burial mounds were afforded the same protection as Euro-American cemeteries and which authorized the professional recovery interpretation and reburial of Native American human remains by the State of Iowa on behalf of Native peoples. This remarkable achievement is a tribute to Mrs. Pearson's forbearance and leadership.

Her work in Iowa and continued advocacy on behalf of Native American rights was instrumental in the passage of important federal legislation. The most recent the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) which provides comprehensive protection for Native American burials and associated artifacts on federal properties and in public and private museums and collections. Mrs. Pearson's advocacy extends to other issues of paramount importance to Native peoples, including such problems of alcoholism and substance abuse.

These and other social issues effecting Native peoples are of deep concern to her. Maria Pearson is a Yankton Sioux. She was born in Springfield, South Dakota in 1932. She has spent the last 37 years in Iowa, most recently in Ames. She has raised six children and has 21 grandchildren. Within this web of extended family commitments, she has become not only a spokesperson and political leader on behalf of Native peoples but she is also a recognized tribal elder a position of high regard and equally high responsibility among her people.

Mrs. Pearson has chaired the Indian Advisory Council of the Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa since the creation of this body in 1976. She is president of the Governor’s Interstate Indian Council; she serves on the Iowa DOT Transportation Research Board and as a consultant on Native American issues to the Iowa DOT. For two decades she has served as the Governor’s Liaison for Indian Affairs for both former Governor Ray and Governor Branstad.

Mrs. Pearson's activism for Native peoples is deeply rooted in the spiritual beliefs and world view of her people. She brings to the often cynical world of government and politics a heartfelt sincerity and forthright dedication to human rights that is as refreshing as it is genuine. When Mrs. Pearson speaks, people listen and they learn. Mrs. Pearson's singular achievements on behalf of Native peoples are well-known and deserve the recognition of all Iowans.

Selected Bibliography of Maria Pearson

1980, Planning Seminar on Ancient Burial Grounds. Co-author with D.C. Anderson A.K. Fisher and D.J. Zieglowsky. Special Publication. Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa. Sources on Maria Pearson

1983, The Study of Ancient Human Skeletal Remains in Iowa.- A Symposium. D.C. Anderson D.J. Zieglowsky and S.J.Schermer co-authors. Special Publication. Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa

1993, Maria Running Moccasins Pearson: Indian Rights Activist. Millie Frese author. The Goldfinch 15:2:21-23