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British Museum Loans Artifacts Back To Oregon Tribe

Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals

The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde are celebrating the return of 16 artifacts from Europe. As KLCC’s Brian Bull explains, the items are back after nearly 120 years…but aren’t home permanently.

Between 1870 and 1910, two men – minister Robert Summers and Indian agent Doctor Andrew Kershaw – acquired various baskets and bowls from the tribal members they served. A colleague eventually bought the artifacts, and gifted them to London’s British Museum.

Credit Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals
This seed basket is one of the items on loan to The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde from the British Museum in London. In the background, also on loan, is a bowl carved out of horn and a pair of dance epaulettes

Now those objects are on display at the Grande Ronde tribe’s own museum. 

David Harrelson is the tribal Cultural Resources Manager. He says in a year, they’ll go back to London.

“Yeah, the objects will go back, we’ll retain 3-D scans of the objects.  Which we’ll be able to use," Harrelson tells KLCC. 

"To us, the important thing to retain is the cultural practices that go along with them.  We’re interested in living things and being a living culture, not a dead culture.”

Credit Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier places a seed fan on a table for display during the Summers Collection welcome event held at Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center in Grand Ronde, Ore., on Wednesday, May 23. Sixteen items from the Summers Collection are on loan from the British Museum in London, and will be part of the “Rise of the Collectors" exhibit that opened Tuesday, June 5, at the Tribe’s museum.

The tribe has worked for two decades to reacquire the artifacts. Part of the effort involved upgrading and expanding the tribal museum.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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