British Museum Loans Artifacts Back To Oregon Tribe

Jun 5, 2018

The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde are celebrating the return of 16 artifacts from Europe. As KLCC’s Brian Bull explains, the items are back after nearly 120 years…but aren’t home permanently.

Cynthia McGowan, assistant collections manager at the British Museum in London, holds up a cooking basket for The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal Council member Kathleen George, second from right, and Grand Ronde Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy so that they can see the bottom during the Summers Collection welcome event held at Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center in Grand Ronde, Ore., on Wednesday, May 23.
Credit Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals

Between 1870 and 1910, two men – minister Robert Summers and Indian agent Doctor Andrew Kershaw – acquired various baskets and bowls from the tribal members they served. A colleague eventually bought the artifacts, and gifted them to London’s British Museum.

This seed basket is one of the items on loan to The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde from the British Museum in London. In the background, also on loan, is a bowl carved out of horn and a pair of dance epaulettes
Credit Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals

Now those objects are on display at the Grande Ronde tribe’s own museum. 

David Harrelson is the tribal Cultural Resources Manager. He says in a year, they’ll go back to London.

“Yeah, the objects will go back, we’ll retain 3-D scans of the objects.  Which we’ll be able to use," Harrelson tells KLCC. 

"To us, the important thing to retain is the cultural practices that go along with them.  We’re interested in living things and being a living culture, not a dead culture.”

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier places a seed fan on a table for display during the Summers Collection welcome event held at Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center in Grand Ronde, Ore., on Wednesday, May 23. Sixteen items from the Summers Collection are on loan from the British Museum in London, and will be part of the “Rise of the Collectors" exhibit that opened Tuesday, June 5, at the Tribe’s museum.
Credit Michelle Alaimo/courtesy of Smoke Signals

The tribe has worked for two decades to reacquire the artifacts. Part of the effort involved upgrading and expanding the tribal museum.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.