Federal ruling: Penn Museum must return Alaskan Native artifacts
December 2, 2010, 4:44 am · Updated December 2, 2010, 12:00 am·
A federal committee ruled last month that the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology must return over 40 artifacts to the T’akdeintaan Clan, an Alaska Native community in Hoonah, Alaska, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The items in the dispute, — which began in the 1990s — range from ceremonial drums to masks and were purchased by the museum in 1924, according to a Penn Museum letter to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee.
“While we are disappointed with the committee’s decision, we remain hopeful that we can still work out a resolution with the claimants,” University spokeswoman Lori Doyle wrote in a statement.
In the letter, dated Oct. 15, the Penn Museum offered to return eight of the claimed objects and to enter into a “joint curatorial arrangement” under which some objects would be re-situated in Alaska. The claimants, two tribes that filed on behalf of the Clan, rejected the offers.
Rosita Worl, the president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute who wrote the original claim for the objects, wrote in an e-mail that though the Museum’s efforts have been “laudable,” the Clan remained “adamant in maintaining its right of possession to the collection.”
Worl added that the Clan and tribes are awaiting the Museum’s action. “They are planning for the return of the spirits of their ancestors who are associated with these objects,” she wrote.