ANADARKO — 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.
Towanda started the museum in February 1999. The Wichita Indian artifacts were a gift from the Butler County, Kan., History Center in 2006, said Lisa Soller, museum education curator.
Soller said the Kansas museum does not know the exact age of the artifacts.
"We are just very pleased the artifacts are going back to the Wichita Tribe," Soller said.
"Our tribe is small, and it's important to preserve all of that for our children and grandchildren to know who we are and how we lived," said Loretta Partridge, a member of the Wichita who has researched the tribe's history and culture. "It's a way to maintain who we are."