News Release: Eiteljorg hosts repatriation ceremony by U.S. of 361 cultural objects to China

INDIANAPOLIS – The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art served as the host of a history-making event Thursday when U.S. government officials formally repatriated 361 cultural objects to diplomats from China.

The repatriation ceremony marked the largest group of objects returned at the same time by the U.S. to China, according to the FBI. Among the honored guests were a delegation of diplomats from the Embassy of China. On the American side, the ceremony included representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. State Department. The FBI in 2014 had removed the objects from the Rush County home of a private collector during an investigation into unauthorized collecting or digging of archaeological artifacts from multiple cultures.

The ceremony officially returning the Chinese objects from FBI custody to representatives of China took place Thursday afternoon in the Eiteljorg’s Clowes Court, a museum meeting room that federal officials had reserved for the occasion. The objects – including pottery – had been carefully packaged by an art-shipping firm in preparation for shipment to China.

“During its 30 years celebrating the art, history and cultures of the Indigenous peoples of North America, the Eiteljorg Museum has actively consulted with representatives from Native American nations to arrange repatriation of Native cultural objects that are very significant to those tribes. While we are not involved in this repatriation of Chinese objects, in that same spirit of cultural cooperation we were honored to play a small role and host the memorable ceremony between the U.S. government officials and Chinese delegation where important objects were returned to China,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said.

Repatriation of certain Indigenous objects to their cultures of origin is consistent with the principles of a federal law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act or NAGPRA, with which the Eiteljorg is in full compliance, Vanausdall noted.

Similar requirements for nations to repatriate cultural objects to their nations of origin exist under various international agreements.

About the Eiteljorg:
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019, the nonprofit Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the West and the Indigenous peoples of North America. The museum has a focus on the diverse peoples of the American West, and the newly reinstalled Western art galleries include artworks by Asian American, Native American, African-American and Latino-American artists.

Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg Museum recently was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions. The Eiteljorg’s meeting and event spaces, including Clowes Court, are regularly reserved by corporate groups, government entities and others as the venues for meetings, seminars and catered receptions. For information on reserving Eiteljorg Museum meeting facilities for corporate events or receptions, visit this link:




Attached photos:
Attached are images of some of the Chinese artworks that are being repatriated to China that were on display during the repatriation ceremony at the Eiteljorg Museum on Feb. 28. Also attached is a photo of the repatriation agreement signing ceremony between FBI Transnational Organized Crime Section Chief Kristi Johnson and Deputy Director General Wen Dayan of the Department of Foreign Affairs of China.

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