Cayuga Museum Returns Iroquois Sacred Objects

The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, New York, has announced the return of 21 objects of spiritual significance to the custody of the Onondaga Nation. Nineteen masks and two wampum articles associated with burials were transferred from the Museum collection to the Onondaga Nation.

The 1990 Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) mandates that federally funded museums return Native American “cultural items” to the lineal descendants or culturally-affiliated groups of the people who created them. The cultural objects covered include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony.
The following statement was issued to the press by the Cayuga Museum:

Even though the Cayuga Museum is not federally funded and so not mandated by NAGPRA law, it has previously returned items to the custody of many Native American nations throughout the country. The Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) items remained in the Museum collection because the Museum’s mission is the history and culture of this region. The nature of the items returned was such that they cannot ethically be displayed in a museum exhibit, so the Cayuga Museum Board of Trustees decided to transfer these sacred Haudenosaunee objects to the care of the Onondaga Nation.

As a gesture of goodwill, Onondaga Faithkeeper Tony Gonyea has made a replica of one of the repatriated objects for use in the Museum. This wampum belt, once clearly marked as a replica, can be displayed in the Museum. The Cayuga Museum is planning a permanent exhibit on the Haudenosanee, or Iroquois people who have lived in this area since before settlement by whites of European descent. The Museum collection includes thousands of artifacts, from stone tools to weapons to lacrosse sticks that can be displayed to tell the story of Haudenosanee history in the Finger Lakes region.

The replica will be presented by Tadodaho Sidney Hill of the Haudenosaunee and accepted by Lauren Chyle, Curator of the Cayuga Museum, on December 19, 2012 at 2 PM at Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, 203 Genesee Street Auburn, NY 13021. Present to discuss the transfer will be Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper for the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation- Tony Gonyea, Faithkeeper for the Beaver Clan of the Onondaga Nation- and other Haudenosaunee leaders.

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