Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Congressman Billy Tauzin

As the United States Congressman for the Third District of Louisiana, I would like to address with you a very sensitive issue here in the United States—the return of human remains to their rightful ancestors. The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana has received information that the Natural History Museum in London, England has in their possession the remains of two individuals positively identified as Chitimacha ancestors.

  The Chitimacha have contacted my office requesting that a letter of support in regards to this important issue be sent to the appropriate officials in England. I understand that the United Kingdom does not, at this time, have repatriation laws in place. I have been informed, however, that museums have in the past repatriated ancestral remains back to their true ancestors. Specifically, Australian aboriginal remains and the remains of Long Wolf from Brompton Cemetery have been returned to Wounded Knee.

  The House of Commons will be holding a Select Committee on Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade on 10 March 2000. It has come to my attention that this will be the first time that the English Government has addressed the important issue of human remains housed at museums. Each human being has the God-given right to be respectfully buried, and left to eternal rest. My concern is the return of these human remains, formerly human beings who once resided here on earth, to their people for the proper and respectful burial that all deserve. Many arguments can and have been made as to why this should not happen, mainly using "scientific value" explanation. It should be noted that museums who have had possession of these remains for many years, even centuries, have had the opportunity for "scientific value" studies. That time has now passed.

  I respectfully urge you to consider the thoughts and information provided to you by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana. I fully support their right to have the return of their two ancestors for proper reburial, which these ancestors so rightfully deserve.

  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

March 2000

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