Memorandum submitted by Congressman Billy
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 Statesthe 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
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.