Alaska Tribe Reclaims Children's Bones from Museum

June 13, 2001

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 13, 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that in Nulato, "a remote native village on the Yukon River, each death sets off a series of elaborate rituals involving dance and copious quantities of food. People here believe that without song and ceremony no member of the tribe can enter the afterlife... So when the elders here learned that the bodies of two village children had turned up in a Fairbanks museum--deposited there by anthropologists in the 1940s--everyone agreed there was only one thing to do. They had to bring the dead back home... For the people of Nulato, the return of the bodies is a matter of correcting a historic injustice and making things right with the spirit world... Residents in Nulato are hoping to rebury the remains in the village cemetery... adorning their grave with a simple plaque that reads: 'Our children. Taken in 1948. Returned June 2001'... Such 'repatriations' of native artifacts and remains have become common in rural Alaska in recent years, the product of a 1990 federal law that gives tribes the right to reclaim the bodies of their ancestors from universities and other institutions."