Online Supplement to Museum Anthropology, the Journal of the Council for Museum Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Portland Art Museum Will Return Medicine Bundles to Crow Tribe
Indian Country Today Media Network August 6, 2015
Eighteen Crow medicine bundles will soon be on their way from Portland, Oregon, back to the Crow people in Montana.
According to The Oregonian, a collector named Elizabeth Cole Butler acquired the bundles from dealers of Native antiquities, beginning in 1970 and continuing through 1990. Butler donated all of them to the Portland Art Museum.
In Crow culture, a medicine bundle is a container made of animal skin that may contain any number of small sacred items -- for example beads, shells, seeds, wood, feathers and arrowheads. "They're profoundly sacred objects, each unique to an individual," Donald Urquhart, the Portland Art Museum's director of collections and exhibitions, toldThe Oregonian. He added that the contents "could be related to burial, ceremony and hunting."
The personal nature of Crow medicine bundles provides an interesting twist in this particular repatriation story: The museum had long offered to return them to the Tribe. The medicine bundles were on a list of objects that the museum furnished the Tribe as dictated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), but in 1993 John Pretty-on-Top, the Crow representative, said that the items "would not be of interest to the tribe as a whole since bundles are exclusively owned by individuals," according to Department of Interior records.