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Finland to repatriate Mesa Verde Puebloan remains to the United States

Finland's National Museum plans to return Native American artifacts to the US that have been part of its collection.

En av klippbyarna i Mesa Verde.
Mesa Verde is a complex of ancient cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park. Image: /All Over Press

Finland plans to return Native American ancestral remains and funerary objects to the United States that were taken over a century ago from the Mesa Verde site in what is now Colorado.

However before returning the pieces back to indigenous groups, Finland's National Museum will next month host an exhibit of the items, known as the Mesa Verde archaeology collection.

The exhibit comprises pots, bowls, a digging stick, an axe blade and a corncob from the graves of about 20 Pueblo people dating back to the 13th century, according to the museum.

Story continues after photo.

Mesa verde intiaanien esineitä, jotka palautetaan Yhdysvaltoihin.
An ancient bowl. Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle

The decision to repatriate the artifacts arose during Finnish president Sauli Niinistö’s meeting with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, this past autumn. The repatriation process has, however, been in the works for years. According to the US Department of the Interior, 26 tribes associated with Mesa Verde National Park have worked with Finland’s National Museum since 2016 to identify the remains and funerary items they hoped to have repatriated.

“The returning of artifacts to their countries of origin is a topical issue worldwide that affects museums with ethnographic or archaeological material from other cultures,” Finland's National Museum said in a statement.

In the late 19th century, Swedish geologist Gustaf Nordenskiöld excavated more than 500 items including petrified bodies from what is now Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Finnish collector Herman Antell later bought the collection from Nordenkiöld and bequeathed it to the museum in 1909.

Story continues after photo.

Mesa verde intiaanien esineitä, jotka palautetaan Yhdysvaltoihin.
Food for the journey into the afterlife. Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle

The exact date for when the tribal cultural items will be transferred has not been set. The museum's final exhibit of the Mesa Verde items wraps up in March.

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