I’m about to leave for a week of ceremonies. These particular ceremonies are every spring and fall, and I make it a priority to be there for the duration of activities. During the course of the ceremonies, many different items are used for different things. The items are a vital part of the ceremonies, so much so, without the items, the ceremonies could not be carried out. Some are very old, some are not. I have had different museums ask me “why doesn’t a tribe just make a new one”. Well, in theory, that might seem feasible, but in the reality of religious/spiritual practices, it’s not possible. Certain items were created for a certain purpose and many tribes, including my own, feel the item in alive and embodies a certain energy or power for a specific duty. When this item is removed from the community, part of the community is being taken away and thus a negative impact is felt.
museums don’t need to understand every aspect of what an item is used for, they don’t need to know what specific ceremonies were performed with it and how the ceremonies were carried out. Simple respect of a peoples’ belief will do suffice. Of all the items we have had returned, the museums were respectful enough to not ask too many questions, which made the repatriation process go very smoothly and strengthen the overall relationship between the museum and our tribe.