Oregon State University Returns Artifacts to American Indian Tribes, Historical Society Balks

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CORVALLIS, ORE.

The Benton County Historical Society expressed disappointment over Oregon State University's decision to return 900 artifacts from the Horner Museum to the Oregon tribes from which they came.

The university closed the museum in 1995 and the historical society wants to reopen it in downtown Corvallis. As part of the deal, the society - in 1998-agreed to take the entire 60,000-item collection.

'They're reneging a little bit on the spirit of the deal," said Kathy Roberts, the society's development coordinator. "It wasn't what we expected, but we'll still be getting a fabulous collection. It's sad there will be a gap in it."

Federal law requires that human remains, grave goods and objects of cultural patrimony, such as sacred items, should be returned from museum collections to tribes or descendants.

Oregon State decided to give all the Native American artifacts back to the Oregon tribes, not just sacred or grave items.

Tribes were unhappy with the initial agreement which "set up years' worth of squabbling on whether or not the university should give Benton County (Historical Society) all this," says James Hamrick, State Parks and Recreation Department assistant director for heritage conservation. …