Kansas museum to return artifacts to Oklahoma tribe

A small-town museum in Kansas has decided to return a grass lodge replica and 15 clay figurines to the Wichita tribe in Oklahoma.
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL Published: August 31, 2010
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— A Kansas museum has decided to return a replica of a Wichita Indian grass lodge and 15 painted clay figurines to the tribe's headquarters in Anadarko.

Tribal members will travel to Towanda, Kan., Thursday to meet with Towanda Historical Museum officials.

Terri Parton, a Wichita tribal elected official and a member of the executive committee, declined to comment on the artifacts, saying tribal officials were discussing the matter.

Federal law requires museums and universities that receive federal funding to identify certain types of American Indian artifacts in their collections and consider returning them if asked by a tribe. Hank Burchard, Towanda Historical Museum treasurer, said the museum does not receive federal funding but no longer had space for the artifacts, especially the lodge.

"We didn't have to give these things back," Burchard said. "But it is the only thing that crossed our mind."

The 6-foot-tall lodge replica is made from straw and was built in the 1930s, said Melton Youngbird Hamilton, an American Indian historian who lives in Towanda and was involved in the return of the artifacts to Oklahoma. An authentic Wichita Indian grass lodge was about 15 feet tall and 18 feet wide, he said.