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Karl-May-Museum Refuses to Return Native American Scalps

The Karl-May-Museum in Redebeul, Germany has refused to give up Indian scalps and spiritual items in its collection to a Native American tribe that requested them for reburial. The exhibits containing the scalps were recently removed from display, but the museum states that there is not evidence to show which tribe the scalps are from, and therefore no appropriate recipient for them. The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians– also known as Ojibwe – has argued for their return. Tribal representative Cecil Pavlat said, “We believe that whether we are directly related or not, we the present day nations hold the responsibility of stewardship and accept the ultimate obligation to care for our ancestors.”

The museum is named after the popular German adventure writer Karl May, and states that it aims to provide a ‘genuine insight into the lives and craftsmanship of North American Indians’. Survival International, a nonprofit organization advocating for tribal peoples, has become involved through a campaign to return the disputed objects.

International museums are not subject to the constraints applied to U.S. museums that receive any form of federal funding. NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 protects Native American or Native Hawaiian ownership rights to culturally significant items, human remains and funerary objects found on federal and tribal lands. NAGPRA requires inventory and repatriation of remains and culturally significant items now in museums and other institutions to tribes that claim them.

Image: Sault Tribe emblem

591px-Karl_May_Museum_BuchausgabenImage: Books by Karl May, Immanuel Giel 10:16, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

 

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