Pennsylvania Museum Told to Return Alaska Tlingit Artifacts
December 1, 2010
A federal committee has ruled that the Hoonah T’akdeintaan clan, which was largely wiped out by tidal wave, is the owner of spiritual and artistic artifacts currently held by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Marlene Johnson, a T’akdeintaan elder, started working for the return of the objects after seeing a slideshow of the collection in the 1990s. Most of the items were purchased in 1924 by a Tlingit man who was working for the University of Pennsylvania. The university claims that the ruling may upset the balance between tribes and the museums that seek to protect, restore and share the cultural objects. The museum has offered to give back eight items but the Hoonah want the entire collection. Though disappointed by the committee’s finding the university hopes to work with the Hoonah to find a resolution. Johnson, who claims that the clan as a whole never consented to the sale and that as long as one clan member remains alive the items belong to the clan, wants the museum a return of the items and threatens litigation the case in federal court.
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