In 1890, approximately 300 mostly unarmed Lakota men, women, and children were killed by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Soldiers trying to curb a growing spiritual movement called Ghost Dance demanded that Native Americans surrender their weapons, when a disturbance occurred and gunfire began. After the massacre, clothes and other items were removed from the dead.
Now, more than 130 years later, the Wounded Knee Survivors Association, a group of Lakota tribesmen descended from those involved in or killed in the massacre, is asking a Scottish museum for the return of three items taken from the victims, reports Gabriella Angeleti of the arts journal.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow acquired the artefacts – beaded moccasins, a war collar and a child’s bonnet – in 1891. Lakota performer and former soldier George Crager was traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Scotland when he sold or donated the ‘curiosities’. at the museum, according to Nick Allen of Telegraph.
The museum returned a bloodied Ghost Dance shirt to the Lakota in 1999 after years of negotiations by Marcella LeBeau of the Wounded Knee Survivors Association, who died last year at 102, according to Paul Drury of the Scottish.
In 1992, a Native American visiting Glasgow spotted the Ghost Dance shirt – believed to protect the wearer from harm – on display at the museum, reports the Scottish. LeBeau, a member of the Survivors Association of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation chapter, then began the process of repatriating the object.
However, the shirt was not presented to the group of survivors, according to Shanti Escalante-De Mattei of ART news.
“He went to a tribal council and then to a museum,” said Charles New Holy, acting head of the survivors’ association. art diary. “The whole process ignored us. These objects belong to our grandfathers and grandmothers – their spirit is still linked to them – but people see prestige and money in them. These are spiritual items that should not be displayed anywhere.
Holy hopes to avoid that result this time. His group is negotiating with the museum for the return of the objects directly to his group. David McDonald, deputy chief and chairman of Glasgow Life, an organization that runs several museums in Scotland’s capital, is involved in the talks.
The museum is “continuing discussions with LeBeau’s family and descendant groups of Wounded Knee survivors,” McDonald told the Telegraph. He adds: “Each case is very individual and involves complex logistics, bureaucracy and costs.”
McDonald points out that when the Ghost Shirt was repatriated, the association did not request the return of the other three items, according to the art diary. Holy says LeBeau was negotiating those artifacts when he died last year.
“I spoke to my consortium about it,” he told the Scottish. “And yes, we would like these items returned. Why would you want to undress the kids after murdering them? We have all the rights to the property of our ancestors.
Speak art diary, the return of these and other artifacts to the United States is governed by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Federally funded institutions are required to check their collections for native artifacts and human remains for return.
However, no such agreement exists between the United States and foreign governments, the art diary points out. The return of these artifacts by foreign institutions is at the discretion of each museum.
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota recently spoke about the Wounded Knee massacre at a press conference. She hopes to create a “real memorial built there that attracts people from all over the world to come to Wounded Knee and learn about the terrible things that happened there,” she said, according to the Telegraph.
“Wounded Knee was awful,” she added. “Our students absolutely need to learn about the atrocities that happened there. I hope at some point the tribe will come to the table and work with me to do that. I think that’s something the state could partner with them on.
In addition to repatriating the items, descendants of Wounded Knee victims are campaigning for the revocation of 20 Medals of Honor given to soldiers involved in the massacre, according to the Telegraph.