In 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Pub.L. 101-601, 104 Stat. 3048, also known as NAGPRA, was passed. This requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American cultural items (include funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony) and human remains to their respective peoples. Recently this has been broadened to assert claims over unidentified materials from lands traditionally held to belong to the tribes.
At one time we had a huge array of Native American artifacts in the Alice Robertson, Elias Soper, Bright Roddy and such collections. In 1995, a lot of what remained of these collections were ceded to other institutions. This left us primarily with the Harry McPherson, Quintus Herron, F.E. McEvoy, and Rennard Strickland pottery collections. There is also a collection of west Mexican figurines, but these are not under NAGPRA. The bulk of these pottery collections are from sites in Arkansas and Missouri, and we’ve spent the better part of the last few years trying to figure out how to inventory them. There are about 1100 pots. They had been inventoried initially, but somehow they have become a bit more confused in their organization.
So, several weeks ago, the Osage tribe contacted me and informed me that they want a photographic inventory of the artifacts that fall into their historical areas. I contacted them and asked if the pottery, which is Mississippian and Caddo would fall into this category. This morning they said yes. So we’re going to have to get this worked out sooner rather than later.
I’ll also need to see about finding out about the collection materials still held by Museums elsewhere, but are library property – for example, the Spiro Mounds materials on loan to Gilcrease Museum.