Education | Law

Religious college with Native artifacts in violation of NAGPRA






The Gooch Kuyéik Náxw, or Halibut Hook with Wolf Spirit, is a sacred Tlingit object. Photo from Sealaska Heritage Institute

A religious school in Massachusetts violated the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by failing to complete an inventory of tribal artifacts, the Interior Department determined.

As a recipient of federal funds, the Andover Newton Theological School must comply with the law, a letter from a senior official at DOI stated. But the school never submitted an inventory even though it was due back in April 2010, assistant secretary Michael Bean wrote.

The letter came after the Sealaska Heritage Institute questioned Andover's proposed sale of tribal artifacts. The school holds Gooch Kuyéik Náxw, a sacred Tlingit object, that could fall under NAGPRA.

“The ruling was forceful and very clear, and there is no room for misconceptions. If an entity owns Native objects and receives federal funds, they must comply with NAGPRA," SHI President Rosita Worl, who filed a complaint with DOI after learning of the sale, said in a press release.

The DOI letter was dated September 29. On October 5, Andover halted the sale and said it would start determining whether to repatriate some of the items to tribes.

"Throughout this process we remain committed to adhering to both the letter and spirit of NAGPRA," Andover President Martin B. Copenhaver said at the time.

Gooch Kuyéik Náxw is known as Halibut Hook with Wolf Spirit. It is used by the Wolf Clan of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes for ceremonies related to halibut fishing.

Get the Story:
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Religious college holding Tlingit artifacts is out of compliance with law, feds say (Alaska Dispatch News 10/20)
Federal investigators side with Sealaska in dispute over cultural objects (KTUU 10/20)
Feds Side With Alaska Native Group in Artifacts Probe (AP 10/20)
Theology school calls off Native art sale amid investigation (KTOO 10/5)