France will return to Chubut the remains of a Tehuelche chief

France accepted the Argentine claim to restore the remains of the Tehuelche cacique Liempichún Sakamatawhich were exhibited until 2009 in the Paris Museum of Mans, as was officially reported after the meeting that President Alberto Fernández and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, held this Friday in Paris.

Sakamata’s remains were appropriated by the French Henry de La Vaulx, who held the title of count and desecrated the tomb of the cacique at the end of the 19th century.

The restoration of this original leader was requested by his descendantsin a process that involved the Argentine Foreign Ministry and the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI).

The process of returning these remains formally began in June 2015when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Héctor Timerman, managed a request from his descendants, both the Sakamata of Puerto Madryn and the Lof Liempichúm of Río Senguer, both towns located in the province of Chubut.

“Numerous communities in the province added their support throughout the claim. Only after this new administration, INAI has an area dedicated exclusively to dealing with international affairs, which strengthened the claim of the community”, said the president of the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, Magdalena Odarda through an official statement.

The Sakamata restitution “is part of a perspective of respect and right towards the cultural traditions and values ​​of each community”, highlighted the head of INAI.

It represents a deep respect for their spirituality. Because these ancestors and their remains mark a presence in the territory, linking and communicating with living beings and with the environment. Restitutions articulate and strengthen indigenous identities, while at the same time transforming into historical reparation,” he added.

Along these lines, the official maintained that “recognizing that these mortal remains belong to a people and a place is to recognize that this people or that community is alive and present in the territory”.
The journey of the remains of Sakamata is being coordinated by the National Program for the Restitution of Indigenous Human Remains of the Directorate for the Affirmation of Indigenous Rights of the INAI, through the Foreign Ministry, with the Ministries of Europe and Foreign Affairs and of Culture of France and with the communities of Chubut and the Municipality of Sarmiento.

“The times are imposed by the pandemic. We hope that this year the restitution of Liempichúm to its ancestral territory will finally take place.Odarda explained.

As requested by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the remains of Liempichúm Sakamata would wait in Sarmiento, Chubut, for his reinstatement to be approved by the French Parliament.
“Then, according to the worldview of the Mapuche and Tehuelche peoples, every human being in their community will be honored as they deserve,” he specified.

Likewise, the head of the INAI explained that “two other cases are still open with the Museum of Man”since there is a claim “about another of the ancestors that was taken by the French count, who appropriated 18 skeletons and 100 skulls from native communities throughout Patagonia.”

There is also a request for the location and restitution of the cacique Guaycurú Lisali, who was given to the Prince of Orleans, added Odarda.

La Vaulx had come to our country on behalf of the French Ministry of Education to look for bone remains from the Stone Age.

However, the count, far from carrying out archaeological excavations, dedicated himself to desecrating and looting the tombs of recently deceased people, in addition to obtaining photographs and other archaeological and ethnographic objects thanks to the trust he gained from the Tehuelche peoples, it was recorded in a press document.

As proof of his methodology, the French Count wrote what he did in his journal ‘Voyage en Patagonie’, published in 1901.

From the National Institute of Latin American Anthropology and Thought (Inapl), the body that enforces the Law on the Protection of Archaeological and Paleontological Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, it is also “essential” that the peoples receive the results of the investigations that were carried out and they do at archaeological sites and in the study of human remains.

“As researchers, that is our obligation. For the communities it is very important to receive both returns. Having data on the health, food, cultural practices of your ancestors allows you to know about your elders, make use of the results of research, and raise needs before a science that listens and gives answers”, said Leonor Acuña, researcher and head of the Inappl.

The non-exhibition of human remains in museums is a change in the museographic paradigm in recent decades.

“These changes have to do with compliance with that regulation and fundamentally with the place that communities have in their right to express their opinion and claim the human remains found in museums and in the process of being studied by research teams” Acuna assured. (Telam)

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