Saturday, July 12, 2014

Returned Artifacts Come With Poisonous Problems

Posted By on Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 11:46 AM

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The Hoopa Tribal museum is host to hundreds of cultural artifacts, but many among those returned to the tribe after a law passed in the 1990s made it easier for Native American communities to get their property back are dangerous to handle.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, archaeologists, collectors and museums doused Native American artifacts in a cocktail of dangerous pesticides and preservatives, according to a recent article in the High Country News. That toxic legacy makes it difficult for tribes, like Hoopa, who want to use the artifacts in ceremonies rather than look at them behind a glass case.

The Yurok Tribe also recently held a repatriation celebration for the return of more than 120 ceremonial Brush Dance items from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, though it's unclear if those itmes were treated with the dangerous pesticides and preservatives.

The Journal wrote about the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian back in 2004. And, for more information on the return of artifacts to the Yurok Tribe, see the Journal's 2010 story "A Klamath Reunion."
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Grant Scott-Goforth

Bio:
Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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