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Exploring International Repatriation between U.S. Museums and First Nations in Canada

Thesis by Elizabeth Wessels (2017)

In the absence of international law guiding cross-border repatriation, museums and indigenous peoples must navigate international repatriation on their own. This research explores the process of international repatriation of human remains and sacred objects from U.S. museums to First Nations in Canada. This case study included semi-structured interviews and museum policy analysis for three cases: the Burke Museum and the Stó:lō Nation, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Siksika Nation, and the Field Museum and the Haida Nation. Results indicate the successful completion of international repatriation hinges on the willingness of those involved to seek out or create pathways for return. While an international framework for repatriation remains undeveloped, this study highlights how museums and indigenous peoples are pushing the field forward by defining new methods to accomplish repatriation across international boundaries.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, international repatriation, First Nations, museums, decolonizing methodologies


Wessells, E., & Haakanson, Sven D. (2017). Exploring international repatriation between U.S. museums and First Nations in Canada.  [University of Washington Libraries].