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Smithsonian Institution becomes first US Museum to return Aboriginal human remains

Washington’s Smithsonian Institution has become the first US institution to return human remains at the request of Australian aboriginal groups, following the lead set by various museums in the UK [1] in recent years.

The Australian [2]

Bones return to Arnhem Land
Natasha Robinson | August 06, 2008

THE remains of 33 indigenous people taken by American researchers 60 years ago touched down in Australia yesterday to be repatriated to Arnhem Land.

A delegation of four traditional owners returned home after travelling to Washington DC to collect the remains from the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History.

The remains of the 33 indigenous people from the Arnhem Land communities of Gunbalanya, Groote Eylandt, Yirrkala and Milingimbi were collected in 1948 by a joint American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land.

The Smithsonian is the first major American museum to have returned indigenous remains. It follows the British Museum’s decision to return cremated ashes of Tasmanian Aborigines in 2006.

The remains of 13 other indigenous people collected during the same 1948 expedition remain in the US museum.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said yesterday the federal Government was committed to helping Arnhem Land traditional indigenous owners bring these remains home.