Mon, Jun 11, 2018 - Page 8 News List

US tribe displays artifacts loaned from the British Museum

Tribal artifacts hidden away in the archives of the London-based museum for nearly 120 years are being returned to an Oregon tribe

By Gillian Flaccus  /  AP, GRAND RONDE, OREGON

After the tribe opened a casino in 1995, it had the funds to build a tribal museum — a key requirement for hosting the objects that led to the loan agreement last year. A small museum opened on tribal land in 2014, and an expanded space with a special security vault for the artifacts was completed last month.

“In my heart, I felt like, ‘Those are ours, and we need repatriate — whatever means we can to have those returned here,”’ said Cheryle Kennedy, chairwoman of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. “It’s really the spirit within our people that I felt crying out.”

Summers was passionate about collecting tribal artifacts and focused on finding items made before contact with Europeans which means many of the objects on display were created before the tribes were forced onto the reservation, said Travis Stewart, interpretive director for the exhibit and a tribal member who selected the items on loan from the British.

That makes their temporary return even more symbolic, said Stewart, whose ancestors appear posing with basketry in a photograph in the exhibit.

“There are spiritual teachings we lose, there are cultural teachings we lose,” he said. “The fabric, the materials that these things are made of are from those people’s homes.”

Summers was intent on preserving that heritage through his collecting, a topic he returns to repeatedly in detailed notes also featured in the exhibit.

He made many trips to Grand Ronde while stationed at a church in the nearby town of McMinnville, but ultimately sold his collection to the Reverend Selwyn Charles Freer as Summers’ health failed. Summers’ wife, Lucia, created a hand-illustrated catalog of the collection after her husband’s 1898 death.

Freer in 1900 gifted the hundreds of items, as well as Lucia Summers’ illustrations, to the British Museum.

Now, the tribe hopes the loan — as well as its newly expanded museum space — will give it the track record it needs to secure similar loans from other institutions.

“I’m hopeful,” said Kennedy, the tribal chairwoman. “The healing of our people is happening.”

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