Friday, August 13, 2010

What's up with the Hearst?

While the Smithsonian repatriates cultural patrimony and sacred objects to the
Yurok, what is the story with the Hearst?


The Smithsonian Institution has returned a trove of precious artifacts to the Yurok Indians in California in what is one of the largest repatriations of Native American ceremonial artifacts in U.S. history.

The Yurok, who have lived for centuries along California's Klamath River, received 217 sacred items that had been stored on museum shelves for nearly 100 years. The necklaces, headdresses, arrows, hides and other regalia from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian are believed to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.

"It's awesome. It's a big thing with our people," said Thomas O'Rourke, chairman of the Yurok, a tribe that lived next to the Klamath River in far Northern California for 10,000 years before Europeans arrived. "These are our prayer items. They are not only symbols, but their spirit stays with them. They are alive. Bringing them home is like bringing home prisoners of war."

To celebrate the return of the items, the Yurok will hold a Kwom-Shlen-ik, or "Object Coming Back," ceremony today in the town of Klamath.

The returned artifacts were sold to the museum in the 1920s by Grace Nicholson, a renowned collector of Indian art, who owned a curio shop in Pasadena in the early 20th century. Ceremonial Indian regalia was in vogue among wealthy Americans at the time.

The sacred cache is part of an ongoing effort around the country to return Native American burial artifacts, ceremonial items and remains taken by white settlers from Indian villages and indigenous sites.

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