2023: Remains of 100K+ Native Americans Held in US Institutions, Research Finds

Billy Anania | January 16, 2023 via HYPERALLERGIC

Decades since the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’s passing, many museums and universities have not returned the remains.

Protesters in front of the American Museum of Natural History covering a since-removed Roosevelt statue (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

A new database by ProPublica charts which United States institutions have yet to repatriate the remains of more than 110,000 Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Natives’ ancestors, reflecting a “legacy of looting and the displacement of Native Americans during North America’s violent colonization.”

The Repatriation Project investigates long-term delays between the 1990 passing of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) — which mandated proper treatment and return from federally funded institutions — and the legal loopholes that may have been manipulated to avoid complying with the law. A series of reports, charts, and interactive maps published on Wednesday, January 11 detail the locations of ancestral remains and sacred objects logged by the Department of the Interior, some of which are reportedly held at cultural and academic institutions. ProPublica says New York’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has the remains of at least 1,898 Native Americans, and Harvard University has the remains of at least 6,165 Native Americans.

A museum-specific report by ProPublica notes that US government and military officials “harvested the dead from battlefields and massacre sites” in the 1880s during westward expansion, while museums looted from Indigenous gravesites to develop their archaeology and anthropology programs. A map detailing the geographic origins of these remains shows heavy concentrations around the area east of the Mississippi River — where tribal nations were forcibly removed in the 19th century — and southern California, where remains are held by the state’s flagship universities.

KEEP READING https://hyperallergic.com/793353/remains-of-100k-native-americans-held-in-us-institutions-research-finds/


Native Artists Create Works for New Exhibition, Continued Use in Native Communities 

RYAN Feddersen (Colville)

BEND, Ore., 2023 — For many Native communities throughout the High Desert, what constitutes art spans beyond the walls of a gallery or a museum. Objects are alive, tied to purpose and intrinsic to thriving communities. Art is at once utilitarian and ceremonial, as well as part of the continuation of Native traditions. 

Opening on January 28, 2023Creations of Spirit will immerse High Desert Museum visitors in the Indigenous Plateau worldview, reflecting knowledge systems of tribes along the Columbia River and its tributaries. 

Six Native artists commissioned for this new, original exhibition are creating artwork that will be used in Native communities before arriving at the Museum. A seventh artist is creating an interactive piece for the center of the gallery. Creations of Spirit will be a one-of-a-kind, celebratory experience featuring the stories of these living works of art. Videos, audio and large projections will immerse visitors in the landscapes and communities in which these objects are used, highlighting the theme of artwork as alive, full of stories and created for specific purposes and people. The original works will be supplemented with nine artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. 

“The works offered by these deeply gifted and knowledgeable artists will be used in their communities to teach and share traditions,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “And the objects will continue to be available to Native communities to use even after Creations of Spirit closes as part of the Museum’s collection. We plan for community members to continue to access these objects.” 

The artists in Creations of Spirit have roots throughout the Plateau region. Acclaimed artist Joe Feddersen (Colville) is creating a basket that will be used to harvest roots in the spring. The contemporary sculptor, basket weaver, painter, photographer and mixed-media artist is well known for geometric patterns reflective of what is found in the environment, landscape and his Native American heritage. Feddersen is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribal Arts and Humanities Board. In 2001, he received the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art award and is one of six Indigenous artists to be featured in the 2023 Renwick Gallery Invitational Renwick Gallery Invitational at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. 

RYAN Feddersen (Colville), is a well-known regional artist working on the art piece for the center of the Creations of Spirit gallery. Feddersen grew up in Wenatchee, Washington and is now based in Tacoma. Her visual artwork utilizes metaphor, history, Plateau storytelling and pop culture influences. Her large-scale pieces have been shown at the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Art & History Santa Cruz, Burke Museum and Portland Art Museum. 

Natalie Kirk (Warm Springs) is weaving two baskets that will be used to educate youth through schools and community programs. Kirk considers herself a contemporary weaver who has shown her artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. 

Natalie Kirk

H’Klumaiyat Roberta Joy Kirk (Wasco, Warm Springs, Diné) is creating regalia for young women to wear during special ceremonies. Kirk has spent her life sewing and beading since her family lost priceless family heirlooms in a house fire as a young girl. She passes down the intricate art of Plateau beadwork through classes and mentoring. Kirk was a recipient of the 2020 Governor’s Arts Award. 

Phillip Cash Cash, Ph.D., (Cayuse, Nez Perce) is producing traditional Plateau flutes that he will play to help teach others about this culturally significant instrument. Cash Cash is an artist, writer, endangered language advocate and linguistic anthropology scholar. As a fluent Nez Perce speaker, he works with communities and professional organizations on projects of cultural advocacy, identity and communication. He is a co- founder of the Indigenous artist and writer collective luk’upsiimey/North Star Collective. Cash Cash serves on the board of the Endangered Language Fund and the Native Voices Endowment. 

Jefferson Greene (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) is constructing a tule reed canoe and paddles that will be used by Native youth in continuing important cultural traditions. Greene is an executive at the Columbia River Institute for Indigenous Development Foundation and an Ichishkiin who offers classes to students, kindergarten to professional level in language, arts, language instructor. Greene is also an artist who offers classes to students, kindergarten to professional level in language, arts, sports, health and spiritual education.

Kelli Palmer (Wasco, Warm Springs) is creating a traditional corn husk hat known as a Patłapa. Palmer grew up on the Warm Springs Reservation. When at a Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association gathering, Palmer’s mother tricked her into walking around the room. Palmer ended up sitting down in her first class and she’s been weaving ever since. She now teaches basketry classes throughout Oregon and Washington. Among numerous awards, she received Best in Show at the Tribal Member Art Show in Warm Springs in 2009 and Honorable Mention in 2011. 

Kelli Palmer

The original exhibit Creations of Spirit will be open at the High Desert Museum through Sunday, October 1, 2023. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/creations-of-spirit. 

INDIAN COUNTRY 2023 will continue… XOX Lara/Trace


  1. I always think that the civilizing process is a farce. on the destruction of indigenous peoples and nature we build exactly what? the beginning of the end.
    here in Brazil we try to recover what still exists of the original peoples and their culture for, who knows, a new encounter with the deepest roots of life. will there be time?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Creating art creates the future and spreads knowledge, love, and joy. It is healing and rebuilding. I wish I knew where my great grandmother rests. She was a Black Foot. Her picture was on the wall where I stayed with my grandmother on many summers and weekends. Her blood is very strong in my being and calls to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for posting this. We in Canada are still mostly focused on unmarked graves of children at former residential schools but I’m betting the ProPublica discovery probably applies here, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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