Monday, October 31, 2005

Northwest Coastal Native American Tunic Returned

The Kaagwaantaan Northwest Coastal Native American Clan and Sealaska Heritage Institute in Alaska celebrated the return and repatriation of a Chilkat Brown Bear tunic which belonged to Kudeinahaa, a clan leader from Klukwan. Ernestine Hayes, a Kaagwaantaan, said in the Northwest Coastal Native American Tlingit world view, everything has a spirit. She said the ancestors' spirits survive through the stories, songs and objects that are passed on from generation to generation. "The tunic's importance probably lies most profoundly in allowing our loved one to come home," Hayes said. "The legality of course is well appreciated, but I just feel it is here and it hears more of the Tlingit (Northwest Coastal Native American language) being spoken, and it feels fresher and more at rest and more at home." Edwina White, another Kaagwaantaan, agrees. "It's like bringing back your grandparents to be with you. It's a strong feeling among our people. The regalia is not just for show off -- it's who we are." The ceremonial property was returned by the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California. The museum acquired the Northwest Coastal Native American tunic in 1977 from the daughter of Louis Levey, a fur trader who bought it from an unknown seller in 1936.

To see where the Tlingit and other groups reside on a map of the region, see Northwest Coastal Native American Region. To learn more about the region's artwork, see Elements of Northwest Coastal Native American Art.

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