6 years after I was contacted by an American shocked by the fact the Karl May Museum was displaying human remains. Beginning in 2014, I wrote several articles on the situation published at Indian Country Today, the largest Native news outlet in the USA. The work goes on, and some progress is being made but apathy is a constant.
And don’t dare say, “You have to be patient, these things take time”. Why? Because that is solely based on White time and privilege. They don’t need any praise for this either, many treated the topic and Natives shamefully. This is only a first step as there are 1000’s of human remains in German museums that need to be returned, not merely discussed, decided or rationalized by those not from other cultures.
There are multiple 1000’s of important cultural items that were stolen and coerced, often taken from massacre sites that deserve to be with or controlled by those to who they are most important. And YES, there are Native scientists, archaeologists and specialists trained for just these things like anyone else. Native North Americans are often left out of serious conversations on repatriation in Germany, just like they are wrongly left out of conversations on racism.
The continued minimization of stereotypes and hobbyism (by some Natives, too), and the objectification and dehumanization of Native peoples, cultures and histories that is common and accepted in Germany is was what facilitated and kept these human remains away from their ancestral lands and family for so long. There’s apathy but also resentment and outrage that anyone dare challenge German culture (!!) of….racism, which is what appropriation, caricatures, and misrepresentation of Natives and “others” is classified under.
I am very glad the Native nation and families finally will have their relative repatriated, but the length of time and the fact a human scalp had been on display and no one thought about anything about it but “Wow!” until someone finally questioned. A visiting American, who contacted me searching for wider coverage and Native contact on the issue.
Please check out the article at DEUTSCHE WELLE, and the video from 2014 where my interview begins around 3:00. It goes to show how little the topic of racism, Eurocentrism and imperialism are seriously discussed relating to (mis)use of Native peoples, cultures and histories in Germany.
This and other situations somewhat set the stage for me to pursue to completion this documentary FORGET WINNETOU! LOVING IN THE WRONG WAY (2018).
My past articles and appearances on the topic of these human remains:
- Karl May Museum’s Lastest on Human Remains? WE Decide, Not You. We’re in Control. #Repatriation
- Agreement Reached Regarding Scalps At Karl May Museum
- “Karl May Museum Refuses Return of Native Scalps”
- Public Statement: The Karl May Festival, Museum & Repatriation Situation
- Battle Over an Ojibwe Scalp