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The Hood Museum of Art has repatriated a ceremonial tunic from its collection to the Kootznoowoo tribe of Tlingit Indians in southeast Alaska, the tunic's original owners and creators. Kellen Haak, Collections Manager and Registrar, and Repatriation Coordinator at the museum, delivered the tunic last November. It was the culmination of four years of work in a process governed by the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act.
Haak attended a koo.éex', or memorial potlatch, which is a post-funeral ceremony practiced by the Tlingit Indians. The ceremony's hosts, the Deisheetaan clan, accepted the tunic and displayed it with other articles of regalia. The potlatch lasted for more than 30 hours, and was attended by about 400 people, according to Haak. It included speeches, mourning songs, dances, meals, a naming ceremony and the distribution of dry goods, blankets and cash.
"One of the most striking aspects of the potlatch was the formal presentation and donning of the at.óow (meaning treasure, including regalia)," Haak wrote in an account of the trip. "During this part of the ceremony the niece of the deceased was dressed in the tunic that her uncle had helped reclaim for his clan. Although I was subsequently informed that this was symbolically a great honor, I was equally gratified to see the tunic reintegrated into the ceremonial context for which it had been created. After four years of working through the formal, bureaucratic process of the repatriation, my ultimate reward was seeing the object, the at.óow, live again."
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