The remains of 20 Native people and 28 funerary objects will be returned to the tribes with relations to Mesa Verde, the White House announced on Wednesday. The announcement comes after a repatriation agreement was reached between the United States and Finland.
A Swedish researcher excavated sites in Mesa Verde, Colorado, in 1891. The objects gathered were sent to the National Museum of Finland, where they existed as part of a collection. In 2016, various tribes worked with the museum to identify the remains so that they could be repatriated.
Hopi Chairman Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma says he was excited to hear the news about the return. He was interviewed Thursday.
“I know these individuals, these Hopi senom, have probably been wandering around lost and have not been to complete their journeys back to their families… it is a big step forward,” says Chairman Nuvangyaoma.
Nuvangyaoma says the repatriation effort has been made possible through work from “quite a few agencies” including various tribal nations, the Department of Interior, the White House, and Finland Government.
“[This] is so special to us, and I think it is probably special to Indigenous peoples everywhere around the globe that are all concerned about paying appropriate respect to those who departed before us,” says Robert Pence, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland.
Chairman Nuvangyaoma had a message for his tribe, Hopi, in particular. He spoke only in Hopi to inform his community about the significance of this event.
Nuvangyaoma says he does not have current information about when the remains will arrive in the Southwest, as well as which Pueblo community will receive them for ceremony. He says he welcomes, however, a collaboration with his fellow Pueblo nations in discussing how to do so.