Friday, June 6, 2014

WA Aboriginal leaders retrieve secret sacred items taken a century ago

A group of Aboriginal elders from northern WA travelled south to collect sacred objects taken by explorers or researchers more 100 years ago. They're human remains and sacred objects that were seized as souvenirs or research material since the late 1800's, some of the latter are so sacred they cannot be described to outsiders or seen by women or children. This is just the latest in a stream of returns being made to Aboriginal groups around Australia under a state funded repatriation programme. Much of the activity has been occurring in WA's north, where the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre has been helping traditional owners negotiate with museums and universities. Australian institutions have come a long way in how they view Indigenous artefacts and are working hard to right the wrongs of the past, particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural property, where those relationships weren't necessarily on an equal footing, and where there were situations where people were either coerced or forced to surrender items, or these things were acquired without their knowledge. This repatriation program attempts to address those issues to some degree. It's not just Australian institutions involved. There are a lot of remains still in institutions overseas: in America, Germany, France, Poland, England, South Africa.

Source: Erin Parke, 'WA Aboriginal leaders retrieve secret sacred items taken a century ago',  Friday, June 6, 2014

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