Sacred Objects Returned to Yurok Tribe

More than 200 sacred objects that were in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian were returned last week to the Yurok Tribe in northern California, as reported in an Associated Press piece published by the Times Leader on Aug. 15.

The collection of items, which includes white deerskins, condor feathers and head dresses of woodpecker scalps, is one of the largest to be repatriated by the museum. Ranging from hundreds to maybe even thousands of years old, the objects were once part of the collection of George Gustav Heye, though the tribe does not know how he obtained them.

“It’s part of the fabric of who we are and why we are,” Javier Kinney, who helped transport the items from the Smithsonian’s facility in Suitland-Silver Hill, Md., told the AP.

The tribe, which has about 5,500 members, plans to use some of the objects in ceremonies, but some will be displayed in its cultural center.

To learn more about the law that requires museums and government agencies to repatriate Native American objects and remains, read Key Federal Agencies Not Fully Complying with NAGPRA, published on AIR on Aug. 6, 2010.


  1. Anonymous says:

    It's about time! Now all of America needs to do the same.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My sentiments exactly as first commenter. I also think that there needs to be a strengthening of laws regarding the auctioning and dealing in sacred tribal artifacts and ritual objects.

    There's been some progress on museum repatriations, but not enough–and the process can take forever!

  3. Way Kari-Winnemem Wintu says:

    For many of us from non-recognized tribes we can not get the artifacts returned to us unless we buy them back. The feds will not return items even though we can prove direct family lines back to the person it was taken from.
    Millions of native artifacts, sacred regalia and personal effects are housed in private collections, in small to large state and federal collections, also for sale on EBAY, my family just had to pay for a basket that was for sale on e-bay just to bring it home to our family and tribe. It was held in a private collection in New Jersey, it came from the McCloud River how it got to New Jersey who knows, but the maker was most likely killed on the river during the relocation or decimation phase of colonization.
    We continue to fight for our recognition, we continue to fight for repatriation of our family’s remains and artifact’s taken, of course we hear” we do not know who you are you are not a recognized tribe”, we were recognized as Indians when there was a bounty for our heads, scalps and they needed to make a deal with the indigenous people for Shasta Lake. They have their lake and now they don’t know who we are.
    We will continue to make a noise that some day may fall on their ears and they will open their eyes and see, “We have been here since the dawn of the world and will be here long after they are all gone”.

    Revive the Sacred-Walk in Beauty.

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