These photos were taken by and copyright to Mark Worth, used with his previous permission.
Two years ago I was interviewed by Deutsche Welle TV on the topic of Native American scalps being held at the Karl May Museum in Radebeul, Germany. An American visitor had remarked and challenged the display, contacting me and several other Native American individuals and groups in an effort to have the scalps repatriated. I wrote articles for Indian Country Today and at my own website to help drawn attention to the situation, as well as educate others on why it is so important that the scalp(s) be identified and returned.
Native American culture, which is in fact plural, not singular, as there are thousands of different tribes many having their distinct languages, traditions and beliefs. The common denominator historically is almost all share the devastating results of invasion by Europeans. In Germany, Native Americans are popular, but mostly in past tense, as relics of the past just as they view these scalps. Stereotypes, caricatures, curious beings or things.The German public when asked rather laughed at the idea that anyone, even natives, might want these old scalps returned.
Despite talks, despite protests and calls from natives, and their previous agreement of returning the scalps, the Karl May Museum has reneged and again refused. They claim original ownership can’t be determined, so they do not know who to properly return it/them to. Well, the original owner had it on their head. IT WAS THEIR SCALP. Whoever bought or sold, that part is now irrelevant. It needs to be repatriated.
Returning the human remains to the person’s tribe is ethical, moral and right, so that it can be properly respected, cared for and returned to the earth but all the Karl May Museum can think of is money, ownership. They also don’t want to be set the precendent (DESPITE international human repatriation laws) that start the push for the many museums, hobbyists and private collectors to return their objects of curiosity and morbid thrills back to native tribes.
The Karl May Museum is absolutely in the wrong, and no amount of their posturing, blustering or supposed concern for “doing the right thing” makes their attitude okay. They’re wrong. The scalp(s) need to be returned. This is an yet another ugly example of how the collecting of “native goods/items/remains” or cultural appropriation through Indian hobbyists can cause international issues and continue historic trauma to Native Americans.
My other articles on the topic:
On cultural appropriation & hobbyists (Off site interviews/comments):
On cultural appropriation, native/indigenous history & knowledge (On site articles):