Sacred objects: NPS provides funding for return of remains, objects
WASHINGTON — The National Park Service announced Aug. 15 $1.6 million in grants to Indian tribes and museums to assist in consultation, documentation, and repatriation of ancestors and cultural items back to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.
“Respecting Native American history and culture is an important part of the National Park Service mission,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “These grants support the dedicated efforts of museum and tribal professionals to collaborate, consult and respectfully return a significant part of our nation’s cultural heritage to Native American communities.”
The grants are awarded to 16 Indian tribes and 15 museums for consultation, documentation and repatriation of Native American collections under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Twelve repatriation grants will fund transportation and reburial of 992 ancestors and 32 cultural items, covering trips from Connecticut to Alaska and Illinois to California and reburials in Alaska, Michigan and Louisiana. Twenty consultation and documentation grants will provide funding for museum and tribal staff, travel, and, in cases where appropriate, digital photography, all in support of the repatriation process.
Over $250,000 of the funds will benefit Indian tribes in Alaska, building tribal capacity and funding consultation trips from Maine to Washington State. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will use grant funds to transport the Keet Gooshi (Killerwhale Fin) also called the “Bear Song Leader’s Staff” back to Alaska. The Keet Gooshi was removed from Alaska sometime before 1948 and came to Richmond, Virginia, in 1955. The Keet Gooshi is a communally-owned object that has ongoing historical, traditional and cultural importance to the Tlingit society and culture and is vital to the practice of the traditional Tlingit religion by modern day adherents.
Enacted in 1990, NAGPRA requires museums and Federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and to consult with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. Section 10 of the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to award grants to assist in implementing provisions of the Act. The National NAGPRA Program is administered by the National Park Service.