Via Hyperallergic, February 8, 2022
Ted Hernandez, tribal historical preservation officer of the Wiyot Tribe, said bringing home the remains of ancestors from the University of California, Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology has been a long process, involving many people. The university as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District announced on January 24 that they had repatriated the remains of 20 tribal members along with 136 artifacts (mostly beads and ornaments made of shells).
“People are more open to seeing the light and the truth and what occurred during the genocide,” Hernandez told Hyperallergic. “They’re realizing that the ancestors need to come home to their people.”
The remains are of Wiyot members killed in an unprovoked attack by a group of white settlers in 1860 during what’s known as the Indian Island Massacre. After construction of a waterway in the area, a team from UC Berkeley collected the remains in 1953 and put them in storage in the Hearst Museum, where they have been for the last 70 years.
The university repatriated the remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a 1990 law outlining a process for museums and federal agencies to return Indigenous remains and cultural artifacts to their descendants.
Cutcha Risling Baldy, a professor of Native American studies at Humboldt State University, agrees with Hernandez that this means a lot — for the Wiyot as well as other tribes.