A shaman's owl mask. A brass Loon Spirit Hat. A faded hide robe that memorializes ancestors of the Hoonah T'akdeintaan clan wiped out by a tidal wave in Lituya Bay.
These items and dozens more belong to clan members, not the Pennsylvania museum where they've been stored for decades, a federal committee ruled recently.
Marlene Johnson, a T'akdeintaan elder, has been trying to return the objects to Alaska ever since watching a slideshow of the collection in the mid-1990s.
"As long as there's one of us around, it belongs to us," she said.
The decision comes on the 20th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law under which Native people can claim human remains and cultural objects held by museums and federally funded agencies.
For the first time, a dispute over Alaska Native sacred or cultural objects this month reached the NAGPRA repatriation review committee, said committee chair Rosita Worl. Normally museums and tribes can reach some kind of agreement, she said.
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