Nunatsiavut and American museum honoured by ITK
The Nunatsiavut government and The Field Museum in Chicago were recently awarded the inaugural Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK.)
The award is presented to “organizations that demonstrate leadership in recognizing and respecting Inuit cultural rights and working to overcome the misappropriation of Inuit cultural heritage,” according to a press release issued by ITK, the organization representing Inuit on a national level.
They are receiving the reward for their work between 2008-2011 to return the remains of 22 Inuit to Nunatsiavut. The remains were stolen in 1927-28 by an assistant curator working on behalf of The Field Museum named William Duncan Strong, who got them from marked graves in the now abandoned community of Zoar, located between Hopedale and Nain. The museum had them as part of their collection until they were returned to Nunatsiavut in 2011.
“The work to right this historical wrong was driven by the relentless efforts of the Nunatsiavut government, and this prize recognizes the partnership and co-operation that are required to bring about reconciliation,” said Natan Obed, president of ITK.
Obed said cultural repatriation is fundamentally about respect and moral standards and he would like to thank The Field Museum for acknowledging the wrongdoing and doing what needed to be done to make things right.
“The Nunatsiavut government worked diligently in getting the remains returned to their final resting place under respectful and appropriate circumstances,” said Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe. “I want to acknowledge The Field Museum for its positive response, acceptance of responsibility and work in righting this wrong.”
Field Museum president Dr. Richard Lariviere said they are honoured to be recognized by ITK.
“We value our relationship with Inuit and remain committed to working in the most respectful manner with Indigenous communities around the world regarding cultural repatriation,” he said.
Dozens of dedicated Nunatsiavut community members must be recognized for informing and directing the work done on this project. ITK also acknowledges government of Canada officials at the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Rangers whose contributions were instrumental in the success of this repatriation and act of reconciliation.
The Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award was presented in Nain as a part of the ITK Annual General Meeting.