beach_and_pier_-_2200x270_-_with_npr_and_cal_lu_1.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Community

Museum returns Chumash remains and objects

Deer bone tube with shell bead applique in asphaltum from Goleta Slough.jpg
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
/
Deer bone tube with shell bead applique in asphaltum from Goleta

Ancient human remains are some of thousands of items which have been returned to the Chumash Community from Santa Barbara National History Museum.

The oldest remains to be repatriated are 13,000 years old and were discovered on Santa Rosa Island. In fact, they're the oldest human remains yet found in North America.

The bones are some of thousands of items returns to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, explained Luke Swetland - the President and CEO of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Swetland said it took six months of collaboration with representatives of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History curatorial staff as human remains and associated funerary objects, were returned to the Santa Ynez Band in April.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a federal law that provides a process for federal agencies and museums to repatriate or transfer from their collections certain Native American cultural items including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, to lineal descendants, and to Indian tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

After receiving the NAGPRA claim in October 2021, Museum curatorial staff inventoried and packed all of the requested materials in an appropriate manner given the cultural sensitivities associated with these human remains and items found with them in grave sites.

The oldest remains to be repatriated were from the Arlington Springs Man, which consist of three human bones discovered on Santa Rosa Island by Museum archaeologist Phil Orr in 1959. While excavating nearby, Orr discovered the bones, which due to erosion, were visible in a stream bank. These remains have been radiocarbon dated to 13,000 years old making them the oldest human remains yet found in North America.

Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians shared, “These items have come home to our tribe, and it allows us to do the important work of repatriation and reburial. We continue to have a close working relationship with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and consider it to be a collaborative partner in the community.”

“The Museum has been honored to care for this important cultural heritage for many years and now finds it deeply satisfying that we can transfer custody back to the Chumash community,” added Swetland.

Related Stories
  • In Fall 2022, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians are slated to open a museum and cultural center on their reservation – something they call a long anticipated dream. The museum will be filled with stories that were lost for a long time, along with exhibits and events that showcase their own language that was only recently rediscovered. In this episode we speak to the tribe and go inside the future museum.