CHICAGO (CBS) — A delegation from the Australian state of Tasmania was visiting Chicago to take home the remains of three Aborigines that have been in the collection of the Field Museum since 1958.
“These were taken. I can’t tell you exactly how, but they weren’t taken with anybody’s express permission – anybody who had authority,” said Helen Robbins, repatriation director at the Field Museum. “It’s so very clear that they were not acquired in any kind of a legitimate fashion.”
WBBM’s Steve Miller reports the museum on Wednesday was turning over a skull and two crania belonging to three Aboriginal people.
The Field bought them as part of a large collection in 1958. They were “collected” in the early 1800s – when colonization meant violence.
“I could actually tell you some stories when Aboriginal men – when they passed away or they were massacred – actually had their scrotums cut away, and there were Europeans that used their scrotums as money bags,” said Dave Warrener, president of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center.
Warrener was in Chicago to receive the remains of the three.
“As a community, as an Aboriginal people, we want to bring them back home where they should be,” he said.
Warrener said the Field Museum is the first American museum to turn over remains of Aboriginal people.
“I think it’s going be an emotional time for the whole community, especially when we arrive back in Australia,” he said. “You know, we’ve had the opportunity now to bring these people back – whatever happened to them – but we’re bringing them back home, mate.”
While his delegation is in Chicago, they’ll be discussing with Field Museum officials the Australians’ desire to have the museum turn over Aboriginal artifacts as well.