Sea Monster Hat Repatriation

By: Robert W. Preucel

Originally Published in 2005

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Helen Robbins of the Field Museum of Natural History and the Sea Monster hat.

The Sea Monster hat is a conical wooden hat with the sea monster crest (Gunakadeit), carved by Augustus Bean. The hat is recorded as having belonged to Anaaxoots (presumably James Jackson). Lieutenant George T. Emmons purchased it around the turn of the last century and then sold it to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 1902. The CCTHITA claimed the hat as an “object of cultural patrimony” on behalf of the clan under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). After a careful evaluation, the Field Museum determined that the hat fit the NAGPRA categoric, but asserted their right of possession. In recognition of the significance of the hat to the Kaagwaantaan clan, the Field Museum pursued a compromise agreement with the Central Council to return the hat voluntarily.

The repatriation was formally acknowledged immediately after the welcoming remarks. Harold Jacobs asked Helen Robbins of the Field Museum to say a few words. Helen thanked her hosts and informed the audience that the Field Museum was very pleased to make the hat available once again to the Tlingit peo­ple. She then handed the hat to Harold who, according to Tlingit protocol, transferred it to the appropriate clan leaders on the Raven side. The hat was immediately incorporated into the potlatch activities and was used throughout the remainder of the Centennial. Jake Strong, Klukwan Kaagwaantaan, wore it during the mourning period. Later it was inverted and used to hold the money (totaling $27,000) given by guests as witness to the speeches, names, and new objects presented throughout the event. Edward Miller, a young, high-ranking Kaagwaantaan boy who danced for the Raven guests, also wore the hat.

Cite This Article

Preucel, Robert W.. "Sea Monster Hat Repatriation." Expedition Magazine 47, no. 2 (July, 2005): -. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/sea-monster-hat-repatriation/


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