RENO, Nev. — In early June, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) Tribal Historic Preservation Office/Cultural Resource Manager traveled to Auburn, Calif., to claim nine Native American baskets from the Placer County Museum.
All nine baskets that were returned or repatriated are now the property of the RSIC.
“For hundreds of years in America, Native American cultural items including items of cultural significance, funerary objects, sacred objects and ancestral remains were looted for museum collections and for certain science communities to study the ‘vanishing Native American race,’” said Michon R. Eben, RSIC’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office/Cultural Resource Manager. “This repatriation of Native American cultural items is so important for the living native communities and descendants of those people that left those cultural items.”
Eben said that to receive the items back will further enhance our own cultural knowledge and ability to share our history in our own words.
The RSIC Cultural Resource Program provided evidence and testimony that convinced the Placer County Museum that these nine baskets are of “cultural patrimony” as defined by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
Part of the evidence Eben provided was to submit documentation of the art piece hanging in the lobby of the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center — the giant replica of a water jug.
Cultural patrimony means that the sought after item(s) a tribe wants returned, must have continued or ongoing historical, traditional or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture.
Obviously, the fact that our ancestors — the original inhabitants of the Great Basin, made and used water jugs to survive in the high desert is evidence.
The baskets include six water jugs, two winnowing baskets and one medium cone basket. All baskets were identified as Paiute items by the museum.
NAGPRA was enacted in 1990. NAGPRA addresses the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations, to their respective cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
Federal agencies and museums must return these items upon request of Native Americans through a lengthy, difficult process.
To celebrate the return of the water baskets, the RSIC Cultural Resource Program is putting together a museum-quality basket exhibit which will feature the nine repatriated baskets, as well as other Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe baskets.
The exhibit, “The Culture of Weaving: Traditional Baskets in Transition,” debuted July 15 at the RSIC THPO (the Rock Building), 1995 E. 2nd St., on the Colony.
The public may view the baskets Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. until Aug. 31. Please call 775-785-1326 before you plan to visit to ensure staff availability.
Due to road construction, pedestrian traffic and staff schedules, the door may be locked. Please knock. The RSIC Cultural Resource/THPO building is accessible for those with disabilities.
This article was first published by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in early July. Visit www.rsic.org to learn more.