Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Indigenous Indignity...Primal Fear.

“A return to Zoar: 83 years after bodies were stolen, Inuit go home.”

So read the headline of an article published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, July 21, 2010, written by a Les Perreaux.

Seems, in the past, a number of museums around the world regarded Indigenous people as some sort of human sub species. The latest example was noted in the above article as a young curator, William Duncan Strong was “told the museum (Field Museum in Chicago) wanted physical anthropological specimens…”

It was 1927. Mr. Strong had arrived on the coast of Labrador and had dug up marked graves. While rebuked by the Inuit and others to replace the bones and graves to their original state and through some deception, he returned to the Field Museum with the bones of 22 Inuit. The Inuit assumed he did the right thing and all was forgotten. Until now.

Based on some gossip, a researcher from the Smithsonian Institution sent a note to the Labrador’s Torngasok Cultural Centre who had heard, “the Field Museum may have the remains of some of your people.” Now, a small team from Labrador had launched a two-year quest that will end soon with the return of the bones. While U.S law requires all museums to return native remains in the United States, the Field Museum has led the way to voluntarily return remains to Canada, albeit, this time with a little pressure from the Labrador Torngasok Cultural Centre.

The Field Museum has agreed to pay for repatriating the remains and they will be buried in Zoar where they were unearthed 83 years ago. Something the young Curator, William Duncan Strong, should have and assumed he had done.

“The story is quite unbelievable. In a way, it could turn into a happy story, even though what was done was immoral, disrespectful and disgraceful,” said Johannes Lampe, Minister of Culture in the Nunatsiavut Inuit Government of northern Labrador. Unfortunately, Mr Strong is unable to apologize. He died in 1962. Wonder where he’s buried.