Friday, March 11, 2011

Torres Straights repatriation

I thought this was an interesting story about the repatriation of Torres Straights remains from the London Museum of Natural History. It seems a remarkably positive solution for both sides:

The institution said that, after 18 months of discussion with the [Torres Straight Islander] community and the Australian Government, a compromise route had been found.

All will work together to agree how responsibility for the remains will be transferred and how they will be cared for and accessed for future study on their return.

"I would like to think we can grow this relationship with the Natural History Museum," said [Torres Straight islander spokesman] Mr David.

"Without making any commitments, what I can say is that in the process of dealing with repatriation I have learnt that there may well be developments in the scientific field that will assist all of us - perhaps, more so my people than anyone else."

To strengthen ties and build confidence, the London institution has offered a placement to a Torres Strait Islander to help it understand better the culture of indigenous peoples and to share with them the insights and benefits that come from the study of ancient remains.

Of course, as Dr. Mr. Palimpsest pointed out, negotiations may have been easier between the Torres Straight islanders and the museum in London, than they would have been between the islanders and the Australian government. I don't know enough about the history of colonial contact on the Torres Islands, but proximity probably counts for something, and not necessarily positively.

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