Bringing Home Our Ancestors

We are trying to raise travel funds to bring back three ancestral human remains that have been at the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand since the late 1800's.

What we share in this crowd-funding plea is a painful history for the tribes affected. It is important to know since time immemorial the Wasq'u people lived along the Columbia River. There were burial islands for the Wasco and Wishxam people called Upper and Lower Memaloose Islands and Grave Island. Dams submerged two of the islands.  The Wasco Kiksht word “Idmimlushdiksh” means ‘dead people’ and in Chinook Jargon the term “Memaloose” remains in use.

Lower Memaloose Island

After Lewis and Clark arrived, many of the burial Islands were swarmed by curiosity seekers and by scientific explorers. They removed what they could of our ancestral remains (human remains), with burial artifacts. Those that collected our ancestors and their burial items would either conduct research, sell or trade them. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon removed the remaining ancestors to inland cemeteries when the Army Corps of Engineers built The Dalles and the Bonneville Lock and Dam before the graves were lost to backwaters.

Boxes that our ancestors were stored in

At present, we have been finding our ancestral remains in museums and universities across the United States and some have been located across the seas in other countries. Museums and dealers traded our ancestral remains for other indigenous people’s remains and shipped them overseas. We located several ancestors in a museum in Christchurch New Zealand. They are ready to return them so we may bury them at home, in a safe location.

A Wasq'u Ceremonial Bowl that the CTWSRO is trying to repatriate

We need to raise funds to pay for two qualified tribal members of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, Roberta Kirk and Rosalind Johnson, to travel to New Zealand and repatriate three of our ancestral remains in March of 2019. This requires special funds, as there is no funding for international travel to do so. Normally, within the United States, Tribes are able to apply for a NAGPRA Repatriation Grant and this grant covers costs of returning the ancestral remains, funerary objects, travel etc. Since this repatriation is in another country, we are not eligible to apply for the NAGPRA repatriation funds.  Therefore, we are on our own and have no financial support. This amount, $7000.00 will cover the cost of airfare, lodging, meals and passports for two people. We need the airfare amount of at least $5000.00 by late January of 2019

Tribal elders on the Columbia River, after a reburial of ancestral remains

We believe our ancestors were wrongly disturbed and this interrupts their journey to the Spirit world. Please help us in this important endeavor to bring back our beloved ancestors’ remains and lay them to rest here in the beautiful Columbia River area, back where they belong.  

Thank you.
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Roberta Kirk 
Warm Springs, OR
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