Museum, Tribe Agree on Return of Wounded Knee Artifacts

Items are a fraction of those held by institutions that federal law says should be turned over
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2022 4:50 PM CDT
Museum, Tribe Agree on Return of Wounded Knee Artifacts
Leola One Feather, left, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, observes as John Willis photographs Native American artifacts in July at the Founders Museum in Barre, Massachusetts.   (AP Photo/Philip Marcelo, File)

About 150 items considered sacred by the Sioux peoples that have been stored at a small Massachusetts museum for more than a century are being returned, museum and tribal officials announced Monday. The items including weapons, pipes, moccasins, and clothing—about seven or eight of which are thought to have a direct link to the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre—are due to be formally handed over during a ceremony on Nov. 5, Ann Meilus, president of the board at the Founders Museum in Barre. The news conference was held on a day that several people present noted is more commonly being celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day, the AP reports.

"This is not our history of Barre. This is the Lakota Sioux's history, and we should honor the Lakota Sioux and what they desire," Meilus said. It is a repatriation project that has been decades in the making. The return of the items is a chance to "begin that process of healing," said Kevin Killer, president of the Oglala Sioux tribe. The items being returned are a fraction of an estimated 870,000 Native American artifacts—including nearly 110,000 human remains—in the possession of the nation's most prestigious colleges, museums, and even the federal government that are supposed to be returned to the tribes under the 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

While the Barre museum maintains that as a private institution that does not receive federal funding, it is not subject to that law, returning the items is the right thing to do, Meilus said. Wendell Yellow Bull, a descendant of Wounded Knee victim Joseph Horn Cloud, said they initially will be stored at Oglala Lakota College. "Upon the return of the items, there will be a mass meeting and a very meticulous discussion on how and what we're going to do with the items," he said. "Most of all, there are items from the massacre site, so a lot of preparations and ceremonies must take place in order for us to proceed forward."

(More artifacts stories.)

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