While efforts to repatriate Alaska Native remains have been ongoing, keeping track of those remains has been difficult. But now the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska is building a database of repatriation efforts for the archipelago’s communities.
As KMXT’s Brian Venua reports, tribes will be able to track repatriation progress online in about two years.
Amanda Lancaster is the Alutiiq museum’s curator of collections.
She says the $100,000 grant comes from the National Park Service’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
“One of the major problems with NAGPRA is that there is not a central database that shows what has been repatriated (or) what has been claimed. Oftentimes tribes will spend time pursuing this repatriation and then it turns out that that set of ancestral remains was returned and buried 20 years ago.”
The new grant now gives the Alutiiq Museum federal funds to create a central database that tracks repatriation progress.
The money is going to be split for travel to villages to meet with Tribal representatives and for staff to dedicate their time towards the project.
The press release says the project is called Angitapet, an Alutiiq word that means “we are returning them”.
Lancaster says the museum will also use funds to contract outside software developers to create the system.
“Part of that money is earmarked for them to work on that database for us to create a login system so that tribes can actually access the database themselves.”
This is just the latest step in bringing Alutiiq and Sugpiaq remains back to the archipelago.
NAGPRA was passed in 1990. The Kodiak Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Repatriation Commission was founded in 2007 to set their priorities.
The Kodiak Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Repatriation Commission and museum staff have been working to repatriate several human remains since 2007. Lancaster says the commission last met in 2022 after the museum got a similar grant that would fund more research to find additional remains
“We identified 12 collecting institutions in the U.S. that had the remains of at least 168 Alutiiq ancestors – and those are just the ones we know about.”
The database is expected to be completed in the next two years and will only be accessible to Kodiak’s ten federally-recognized tribes.
Two Native groups are headed to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, but not to cheer on the NFL championship game between Kansas City and San Francisco.
As Jill Fratis from our flagship station KNBA reports, they’ll be holding a demonstration on Sunday.
The greater Kansas City area group Not in our Honor plans to make the trip to Vegas for what members say will be a “peaceful demonstration” outside the stadium.
They’ll be joined by the group Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots.
Members of the groups are advocating for the Kansas City Team to change its name and for the end of Native cultural appropriation.
Gaylene Crouser is executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center and a member of Not In Our Honor.
She will be in Vegas for the demonstration and says that showing up to such a big event is important.
“Stand up and show that there is opposition to the use of our imagery, and likeness and the bastardization of our culture, and all of those things that it’s not okay. And that they don’t have the support of all of Indian Country.”
The Kansas City team has been gaining much attention, all due to the celebrity of Taylor Swift.
The singer is dating one of the players.
Crouser says she thinks Swift could be an advocate for the Native groups.
“If she were to say to them, ‘Hey, I really I want to support my boyfriend and I really want to do whatever I can, but this particular issue is wrong to have human beings as a mascot’, and to utilize the imagery that way, and come out against it. I believe she would have a lot of sway.”
Crouser says she is thankful Swift has not taken part in evoking an outdated stereotype of Native people when fans chant and do the “Tomahawk Chop” at games.
And as far as the team changing its name?
Crouser thinks it will have to take something drastic like a financial hit, but Not In Our Honor plans to continue to hold demonstrations as long as it takes.