Repatriation: An Evolving View

"Repatriation" means to be returned to one's place of origin. The Department of Anthropology's Repatriation Office is now collaborating with native peoples to determine the future of Native American objects currently in the National Museum of Natural History's collection.

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In 1995, as a part of the on-going repatriation process, members of the Arctic Studies Center joined in a video teleconference between museum staff in Washington, D.C., and elders of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes in Juneau, Alaska. Images of beautiful, handcrafted objects were beamed from a table in Washington to monitors in Alaska.

Some objects were greeted as old friends, some went unrecognized and the conversation was never dull. The teleconference was jointly sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Alascom, and AT&T. Dr. Chuck Smythe of the Repatriation Office at the National Museum of Natural History helped to organize the event. "We are testing new  technologies to aid in the communications process."

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Participants List

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The following are some of the objects viewed at the teleconference.
 Click on the object photos to see a larger photo and
 read about how the item was collected by the museum.

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 The dagger itself, the brown bear. I have heard my grandfather talk about it. After you become a warrior it never leaves your side...They say "he died with his dagger."
 - George Ramos, Yakutat, Alaska

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 "Gushteheen" means when water comes off the whale's dorsal fin after it breaches. An individual would get these names.
 - David Katzeek, Thunderbird of Klukwan

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More About Repatriation

Arctic Studies Center Homepage

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