Eight old, cultural objects illegally sold to an east coast museum in the 1920s are returning home to the T’akdeintaan Clan, Snail House, of Hoonah.
The clan has been trying for 16 years to repatriate a collection of 50 objects owned by the Snail House (a sub division of the clan) but held by the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The museum sent a letter to the clan notifying it of plans to send eight of the objects home.
“I can hardly believe that it’s really going to happen in mylifetime,” said Marlene Johnson, a member of the Snail House and a co-signer on the original repatraition claim filed in September 1995. Johnson also serves as chair of the Huna Heritage Foundation and vice chair of Sealaska Heritage Institute, which assisted in the effort, along with the Huna Totem Corporation, Hoonah Indian Association and Sealaska Corporation.
The repatriated objects include a wooden box drum, a robe known as the Lituya Bay Robe, a mask known as Owl of the Heavens, a mask known as Commander of the Tides, a headdress known as Little Ravine, a head cover formed from a corner piece of a Chilkat blanket, a rattle featuring a loon, human and raven’s head and a tobacco pipe.
The museum first agreed in 2009 to send the eight objects home to the clan, after receiving the clan’s repatriation claim 14 years earlier. In November of 2010, a delegation representing the clan traveled to Washington, D.C. to argue before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Review Committee for the return of all 50 items. The delegation argued that the seller did not have permission from the Snail House to transfer the collection to the museum. The committee--a federal advisory panel--agreed, saying the museum did not acquire the 50 objects with the consent of the T’akdeintaan Clan, Snail House.
The clan is waiting to see if the museum will return the other forty-two objects.
“We are at a loss to explain how the museum made the distinction between these eight objects and the remaining objects in the collection since they are from the same collection, have the same cultural attributes and meet the same standards for repatriation,” said Johnson. “Based on the NAGPRA Review Committee findings and the fact that the museum did repatriate the eight objects, we remain hopeful that the museum will repatriate the remaining collection.”
CONTACT: Huna Heritage Foundation Chair Marlene Johnson, 321-8335; SHI President Rosita Worl, 463-4844