Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pennsylvania Museum Ordered to Return Alaskan Tribal Artifacts

Pennsylvania Museum Ordered to Return Alaskan Tribal Artifacts: A shaman’s owl mask. A brass Loon Spirit hat. A faded hide robe that memorializes ancestors of the Hoonah T’akdeintaan clan wiped out by a tidal wave in Lituya Bay, Alaska.

These items and dozens more belong to clan members, not the Pennsylvania museum where they’ve been stored for decades, a federal committee ruled recently.

Marlene Johnson, a T’akdeintaan elder, has been trying to return the objects to Alaska ever since watching a slideshow of the collection in the mid-1990s.

“As long as there’s one of us around, it belongs to us,” she said.

The decision comes on the 20th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law under which American Indians can claim human remains and cultural objects held by museums and federally funded agencies.