Tlingit cultural items could be headed back to Alaska

The Sealaska Heritage Institute acquired a Chilkat robe believed to be a funerary object in 2015. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Five sacred Tlingit items could be returned to Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. 

A notice published in the federal register on Monday stated the items were “acquired” by William P. Palmer III and given to the University of Maine in 1982. The items now reside in the university’s museum. 

They include a shaman’s pipe and mask and other items placed near grave sites or associated with death ceremonies. 

Under federal law, such cultural or sacred objects belong to Indigenous descendants and can be removed from museums for repatriation. Central Council members visited the museum in Maine in 2018 to make the determination. 

One of the items that could be headed back to Alaska is a Tlingit Raven grave totem, which records indicate once hung in the Elks Lodge in Juneau. 

The transfer of the objects to Central Council will take place after Aug. 5 if no other descendants make a claim.