On November 16, 2002, Hood NAGPRA Coordinator Kellen Haak (far right) repatriated the tunic to the Deisheetaan Clan, Kootznoowoo Tribe of Tlingit Indians, on the occasion of Matthew J. Fred's memorial potlatch.
Matthew J. Fred's niece wearing the tunic after the ceremonial dressing of the host clan in their regalia.
In 1995 the Hood Museum of Art was awarded a National Park Service NAGPRA Grant to bring a delegation of Tlingit Indians from various Native communities in southeastern Alaska to the Hood and to Harvard’s Peabody Museum. During the site visit, Matthew J. Fred Sr., the delegate representing the Kootznoowoo tribe of Angoon, Alaska, identified a Chilkat tunic in the Hood’s collection as belonging to the Deisheetan Clan. The pre-1882 tunic was created when a Chilkat robe was cut into four panels that were then sewn into two tunics. Mr. Fred related the story of how two brothers, Kanaalku and Kichnaalx, of the Yeil Hit (Raven House) of the Deisheetaan Clan inherited a Chilkat robe that, in order to allow both to use it, was cut up and made into the two tunics.
On December 31, 1997, the Kootznoowoo Cultural and Education Foundation (KCEF) submitted a formal request on behalf of the Deisheetaan Clan for the repatriation of the tunic. Subsequently, as part of the consultation process, the Hood’s director wrote a letter requesting further clarification on a number of points related to the evidence being offered in support of the request to repatriate. Before a response to this letter was completed, the KCEF lost its funding, and the request lay dormant until February 21, 2002, when the cultural resource specialist for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Juneau, Alaska, responded to the questions and explained that the council had been authorized by the KCEF to pursue the repatriation on their behalf.
Following an internal review of the evidence as presented by the council, the acquisitions committee of the Hood Museum of Art authorized the repatriation of the tunic on June 12, 2002. A draft “Notice of Intent to Repatriate” was written by the Hood’s NAGPRA coordinator and submitted to the National Park Service on June 20, 2002. The notice was published in the Federal Register on August 29, 2002, and ran through September 30 without comment or dispute.
The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Juneau, Alaska, lacking funds to retrieve the tunic, asked that the Hood’s NAGPRA coordinator hand-carry the tunic to Angoon so that it could be presented to the Deisheetaan Clan on the occasion of a Koo.èex’ (memorial potlatch) for Matthew J. Fred Sr. (1924–1999). The clan was particularly interested in having this old and important ceremonial object on hand for the potlatch, because Mr. Fred was an important clan leader and had been instrumental in starting the consultation process that ultimately led to the successful repatriation of the tunic.
The tunic was returned to Deisheetaan Clan leaders on November 16, 2002, about an hour before the ceremony began. It was immediately returned to its ceremonial function and placed on a table used for the formal display of the clan’s at.óow, or regalia. One of the most striking aspects of the following thirty-hour potlatch was the presentation and donning of the regalia by the deceased’s clan. During this part of the ceremony, Matthew Fred’s niece, a member of both his clan and his house, was dressed in the tunic that her uncle had helped to repatriate.
Last Updated: 9/12/11