A different Kind of Restitution


There is an interesting article from Eureka California by Donna Tam in the Times-Standard on Saturday, Wiyot tribe: Return burial artifacts. The Wiyot tribe is requesting that collectors return items removed from burial sites before it was illegal to do so.

It seems at a recent local Indian Art Show, many Wiyot artifacts were offered for sale, and they may have been from the collection of H. H. Stuart, a Eureka dentist who did amateur excavation of Wiyot sites in the 1920’s. Those kind of private excavations were not prohibited by law at the time, and privately owned objects are not subject to the relevant State or Federal law, particularly NAGPRA.

These calls for restitution are not dictated by law, so long as these objects were in fact unearthed in the 1920’s, and that collection label is not used to mask recently unearthed objects, as often takes place.

Thsi presents an interesting case, because it’s a voluntary return of objects which are important to the Wiyot tribe, and it is not done under any legal pressures. Surprisingly perhaps, 1,000 objects have been returned. AS Helene Rouvier, the Wiyot Tribal historic Preservation Officer says in the piece “I would ask people to try and put themselves in the place of the Indians … How would they feel if this were their relatives?”

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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