The tribe Ponca buried the Standing Bear Chief over a century ago in what is now Nebraska. But the Standing Bear tomahawk, a symbol of to protest against US government policies that did not define Native Americans as subject to the law. ” has been sitting since 1982 in a display case 1,500 miles away in a Harvard University museum in suburban Boston. And he won't belong to the tribe until at least September, when the authorities agreed to let the leaders of Ponca visit the Har vard Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology in thepart of the repatriation of the tomahawk.The tomahawk does not technically fall under items that can be repatriated under the Native American Burials Protection and Repatriation Act - or NAGPRA, a law that outlines the legal processes that allow museums and universities to return ancestral remains and other qualified sacred objects to indigenous tribes. Chief Bear standing in 1877 photo, but Brett Chapman, an attorney from Oklahoma and descendant of Standing Bear, initiated the repatriation request, asking the museum to return it because it 's the right thing to do. Read more It ' sa moral issue. It shouldn't 'It won't be their call where we have to wait for them to decide and then congratulate them on their benevolence, Chapman told CNN. This artifact should never have left the tribe. Ponca. A federal law to solve the problem is insufficient Congress passed the NAGPRA in 1990 to recognize that the remains deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and that the objects removed from tribal lands belong to descendants. But NAGP RA only applies to tribes recognized by the federal government for cultural items ranging from human remains of indigenous ancestors to artefacts funeral with specific qualities . It requires tribes to provide proof of prior ownership, as well as other details such as ownership and tribal history to prove their connections. However, many tribes follow their stories orally or encounter legal problems in declaring land ownership, so they easily fall through cracks in the system Universities come into possession of autochthonous sacred objectsones and human remains through archeology programs that unearth them and donations from collectors, as in the case of Harvard receiving the tomahawk as part of a bequest to the university. Brett Chapman and his daughter urged Nebraska state officials to ask Harvard University to complete repatriation efforts. Ira Matt, a member of the Confederate Salish and Kootenai tribes, recently helped to facilitate a deal to secure hundreds of cultural items - ranging from saddles to beads and moccasins - repatriated from the University of Montana after years of sorting and negotiating outside of NAGPRA guidelines. Matt said that it was part of a larger movement of indigenous tribes collecting remains and artifacts across the country as they gain more legal and economic resources. He hopes his deal can set a precedent for other tribes. It was a matter of time, Matt mentioned. It just so happens that everythingnot everyone wants all of these items. It also happens that the public does not necessarily have an appetite for a bunch of stolen items, corrupted by people. And it just so happens that the tribes are getting ready to take these things back, to fight for it legally. This foundation gave them the opportunity. How universities are trying to improve repatriation efforts In recent years, more university policies have focused on tribes recognized by NAGPRA, but they have still a long way to go. The University of California system began banning research on all Aboriginal ancestral remains in 2018. After reports have revealed that UC Berkeley 's Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology has fallen behind in repatriation efforts a>, university created a new role for a NAGPRA Liaison Officer (other schools in the University of California system have committees that serve as NAGPRA Liaisons). Thomas Torma, the officer since July 2020, said he was only just beginning to catch up with over 9,000 remains and 13,000 burial items in Berkeley's possession. He stated that the university now intends to finally repatriate all items. The United States begins to rely on Native American children I'm happy when (objects) come back, but try to keep in mind that we still have thousands of ancestors held in Hearst, and each time a reminder of the long road ahead. It's a bit bittersweet because as nice as it is to see things coming back, it also always reminds me of all the work we have to do, said Torma, whoi was the cultural director. for the Wiyot tribe in California. Other universities have created similar roles and processes. Vassar College and the University of Tennessee repatriated thousands of native remains. Indiana University changed its rules last month to stop the search for the remains and create a council with the tribal chiefs to facilitate consent that would allow the search or repatriation of the remains. Tribes still face obstacles in recovering their artifacts But other states still require hoops for tribes to jump through, and local tribes often have a harder time claiming items. i In Texas, the local Miakan-Garza tribe, which isnot federally recognized, a asked to the University of Texas at Austin to return ancestral remains for years . However, objections from the federally recognized tribes to the Miakan-Garza Tribe's legitimate ownership of the remains, mixed with the university's strict adherence to NAGPRA guidelines prolonged the process. Thousands of children from Canadian schools for indigenous communities may be buried in the unmarked gr aves, according to those responsible Many tribes in Texas go unrecognized at the federal level, leaving repatriation to museum administrators and curators and causing only a fraction of the items to return, selon the Texas Observer. Currently, UT Austin is optimistic that the situation will be resolved through a respectful burial process and has had positive discussions with members of the Miakan-Garza band as well as several tribes federally recognized, said UT Austin spokesperson JB Bird. Chapman said all of these obstacles show why NAGPRA is not enough, and why more universities should strive to proactively return articles to Indigenous peoples. Tribes can choose to re-bury them, display them in their own museums, or keep them in a safe place, but that should ultimately be their choice, he said. They were real living people and some of my relatives, Chapman said. This decision on how to use the items has been taken away from them. And the spirit of a law like this should be for faster repatriation and to repatriate the plupart objects instead of hanging on to things.