German Museum Repatriates Lakota Chief’s Shirt, Citing ‘Moral and Ethical Reasons’Breaking News
tags: museums, Native American history, repatriation
With German institutions placing a renewed emphasis on the repatriation of various objects in their holdings, the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt said this week that it had given the leather shirt of Chief Daniel Hollow Horn Bear (Mato He Oklogeca), of the Teton Lakota, to his great-grandson Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear. In a press release, the museum cited “moral and ethical reasons” for the return.
The leather shirt was handed over to Duane Hollow Horn Bear on June 12 in Rosebud, South Dakota. Duane Hollow Horn Bear had visited the Weltkulturen Museum in 2019 and submitted a request for the shirt’s return that included a historic portrait photograph, dated to 1900, by John Alvin Anderson. The picture showed Chief Daniel Hollow Horn Bear, who died in 1913, wearing the shirt. Chief Daniel Hollow Horn Bear was a well-respected leader and politician who advocated for the rights of his people and was often a chief negotiator with the U.S. government.
In 2019, when he requested the shirt’s return, Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear said in a video documenting the repatriation process, “It’s been a hard journey just to come here today. I’m humbled not just to see [his shirt] in a picture, but to hold it in my hand, like I’m holding his hand. . . . Grandpa come home. We need you.”
In a statement, the Weltkulturen Museum said, “The Chief’s shirt is a culturally specific, identity-forming object of religious significance to the Teton Lakota Indigenous community. It bears special patterns of brightly colored glass beads and human hair, which are undoubtedly attributable to the Hollow Horn Bear family and prove personal possession prior to 1906. . . . For Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear and his family, the return of the shirt is like the return of the great-grandfather himself.”
The Weltkulturen Museum came into possession of the shirt in 1908 through an exchange with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. For the past 30 years, the shirt had been on permanent loan and display to the German Leather Museum in nearby town of Offenbach.
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