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The Forest Park Public Library Board of Trustees has voted to repatriate a collection of Potawatomi artifacts to the Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center, Library, and Museum in Crandon, WI. 

Since 1968, the Forest Park Public Library has been the custodian of Potawatomi artifacts including pottery shards, stone axes, spear points, arrowheads, and jewelry. The collection was discovered in 1869 by Ferdinand Hasse during the creation of the Forest Home Cemetery. Some of the items were removed from burial mounds that existed on the land. 

Legislation passed by Congress in 1990 requires certain types of organizations to identify qualifying Native American artifacts in their collections and return them if requested by a tribe. Items that qualify under this legislation include those found within burial mounds and relics used for religious and ceremonial purposes.

The law, known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, provides a process for organizations to return certain Native American cultural items to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. 

While the NAGPRA terms may not require that the library voluntarily repatriate the collection at this time, the intention of the act motivated library Director Pilar Shaker to ask Trustees to consider doing so in an effort to make these special cultural artifacts more available to tribal descendants and ensure that they are properly preserved for future generations of the Potawatomi.

Prior to coming to this decision Shaker consulted with local experts in the field including the Director of The Newberry’s D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Dr. Rose Miron. Dr. Miron stressed in an email the “importance of Native people representing their own history on their own terms and in their own spaces” and indicated that “returning items to a tribe would always be my first suggestion.” Dr. Miron also supported the idea of selecting The Forest County Potawatomi as the appropriate home for this collection.

The Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center, Library and Museum is a center focused on passing the history, culture, and traditions of the Potawatomi to the next generation. This is done through events, exhibits, services, and a collection of books, artifacts, photography, and other memorabilia. 

The items will be on display at the library until Sunday, August 11 along with supplementary information and more details about the collection’s new home.