Woolworth was an archeologist, anthropologist, museum curator and longtime research fellow with the
He died Wednesday at
Woolworth, a World War II combat veteran, prodigious researcher, book publisher, cat lover and friend of the Dakota Sioux community, helped decide how the historical society handled sensitive disputed artifacts including the remains of Little Crow, the Dakota chief who led the attacks against government outposts and settlements in the
Little Crow was killed in an ambush in 1863; his skull, scalp and left forearm ended up in the possession of the
Woolworth was the person chosen to carry the remains back to the family, according to friend and historian
"In the 20th century, his remains were looked on as a war trophy," Woolworth said in an interview this summer. When Little Crow was killed by a farmer and his son near
"Most of the white people hated his guts and looked on him as a heathen person and were glad he was dead," Woolworth said. But Woolworth, an expert in the Dakota conflict, said he had become friends with the descendants of the Little Crow family.
'AN ETHICAL MATTER'
"Basically the Little Crow family wanted the remains returned to them for burial," Woolworth said. "I certainly concurred with them."
At the burial ceremony at
"I think he saw it an ethical matter, that the society had no right to not return the remains of that individual," Emerson said of Woolworth.
FENDING OFF VIRGINIANS
The battle flag of the
The Confederate battle flag was captured at the Battle of
"If you give away something, the next day you might wish you had it," Woolworth said. If the state gave up the
Woolworth personally knew what it cost to win something on a battlefield. During World War II, he fought as an infantryman in
"I was wounded twice. Not heavily, but enough to scare the hell out of me," he said.
Woolworth's twin brother, Arlan, who was also in the
Woolworth was born in
In 1952, he became an archeologist with the
Emerson said Woolworth was instrumental in getting a state statute enacted in 1963 that protected archeological sites on public land.
Emerson's career included excavations of prehistoric Indian villages and excavations of an inland fur trade depot at
'A DEMON RESEARCHER'
Woolworth retired as chief archeologist in 1979. But he transferred his digging skills to the library and archive as a research fellow for the historical society.
He was an expert on the regional fur trade, frontier history and the Dakota Indians. But according to an index of 46 boxes of papers he donated to the historical society, he also collected material on a wide range of topics including fire grenades, lead shot, meteorites, caves, photographers, coal mines, grist mills, Masons, Mexican War music, bears, birds and buffaloes.
His papers also include biographical information on scores of 19th century Minnesotans including Dakota Sioux, fur traders, military officers, interpreters, slaves, steamboat captains, missionaries and mixed blood people.
"Alan was a really dedicated researcher," Emerson said. "If he got interested in any particular topic, he would research the heck out of it."
"He was able to help huge numbers of people who came to him for help with people and topics," said
"I couldn't have written that book without his help," Anderson said of his biography, "Little Crow: Spokesman for the
"Alan went out and talked with large numbers of elderly Dakota people," Anderson said. "He was able to find the stuff I really needed."
"He was always willing to share his knowledge and materials," Dahlin said. "Not everyone is willing to share."
Emerson said Woolworth was also willing to share his opinions and not afraid to tell his bosses that he disagreed with them.
"He was opinionated. He wanted things done his way," said Woolworth's daughter,
Woolworth retired as a research fellow in 1998 but kept an office at the historical society as an emeritus research fellow for years beyond that. He also helped start a publishing company,
He is survived by Pegors and another daughter,
A memorial service will be
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