The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGRA, Review Committee in Washington, D.C. found a Native object in the Alaska State Museum and several in the University of Pennsylvania Museum are actually the property of the Teeyhíttaan Clan of Wrangell and T’akdeintaan Clan of Hoonah, respectively. This means the committee found the museums did not have the right to possess these objects without the clans’ consent.
My understanding is that the NAGPRA Review Committee’s decision is non binding, but will likely be held up in court. The next step is to negotiate with the respective museums for relinquishment of ownership.
The item in question for the Teeyhíttaan clan is the Yéil Aan Kaawu Naa S’aax, The Leader of All Ravens Hat, which can be seen in the Wrangell Museum. There is also a photo in this book from Sealaska: lingit Wood Carving: How to Carve a Tlingit Hat (vol. 2) – by Richard A. Beasley
Arguments made by the T’akdeintaan (of Hoonah) and Teeyhíttaan (of Wrangell) clans were that the concept of Tlingit clan property forbid any one member, even if he is clan leader, from relinquishing, selling or gifting clan property without the consent of the entire clan. The concept of at.oow, “that which belongs to us,” was explained.
With this concept fresh in our minds, we should be thinking of ways to expand clan property to once again include property, buildings and even productive capital. Such clan property has been the Tlingit economic model for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Returning to a combination of clan and private property can provide a direct access to resources for our people and provide more than a safety net. It can provide a parallel and powerful Tlingit economy!