Grants to recover more Native treasures awarded

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

On Wednesday, the National Park Service announced it has awarded $2.1 million to assist museums, tribes, Alaska Native corporations and villages with implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Of that total, nearly $400,000 is headed for Alaska, including two grants to Southeast. Cape Fox Corp. is receiving $15,000 to enable it to repatriate the Teikweidi totem pole from the Peabody Museum in Massachusetts.

The 18-foot totem was removed by the Harriman Expedition in 1899.

``They spent a couple of hours on our beautiful, white sand beach,'' said Irene Shields Dundas, repatriation manager for Cape Fox, ``and then they started removing things.''

The 18-foot totem belonged to the Saanya Kwaan tribe and the Hoots hit (Bear tribal house), she said.

Objects taken included six totems, a complete tribal house, Chilkat blankets from a grave, memorial posts, box drums and masks. The 35 items removed are now scattered from the National Museum of the American Indian (New York City) to Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.), from the Field Museum (Chicago) to the Burke (Seattle).

Next July, PBS is planning to film at Cape Fox as it makes a documentary about a recreation of the Harriman Expedition. All items will be returned and Shields Dundas is planning a ceremony called One Hundred Years of Healing.

The Organized Village of Kake will receive a grant of $73,295 to conduct an assessment of museum and federal agency collections, and prioritize items for repatriation. Executive assistant Dawn Jackson is in charge of the effort.

``We don't have any specific objects we're going after yet,`` Jackson said, ``but we have received tips from another repatriation representative who has been to museums on the East Coast. We are going through inventories looking for things from Kake. Human repairs will be pursued, as well as cultural material,'' she said.

One of the secrets to repatriation is that a museum accession number can represent one object or dozens, said Terry Pegues, who has worked for the Sitka tribe on NAGPRA matters.

``When NAGPRA was implemented, museums started sending us their inventories. And I found out by talking to a former staffer at the Museum of the American Indian, Aldona Jonaitis (now director of the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks), that an accession could be one piece or 20,'' Pegues said Saturday.

``The University of Pennsylvania showed us videos of its accessions in 1995, and I saw pieces from Angoon's Raven House. Some accessions contain as many as 32 pieces. So (the four Angoon frontlets at Friday's ceremony) are just the tip of the iceberg.''

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