Today I had a field trip with my local historical commission to a museum in n. Michigan. The museum had probably the best collection of French era Great Lakes trade items I have ever seen. Muskets from the late 1600s, tools, tomahawks and of course, trade silver. I immediately recognized many items as having the high possibility of being grave goods. We have repatriated the exact same items, with records documenting them being from graves. I am sure many of the items I was looking at today were from either Odawa, Huron or Ojibway burials. But, there was nothing I could do, the museum does not receive federal funds, therefore, NAGPRA does not comply and the tribes can not pursue items under the law. Sure, the museum could give the items that are funerary objects over to the tribe for reburial, but probably not. They might not know they are burial items to be begin with.
The collection use to be in the ownership of one, sole collector. This man, like many others, made it is life’s work to acquire as many Indian artifacts as possible. But this collector went way beyond Indian and had French, English and early American items. A rifle and revolver from the civil war, sitting next to a 100yr old cradle board? Who the hell has this! Only somebody with deep pockets many years ago.