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Albion College returning idol to Native American tribe

Albion College

This week, Albion College will return a religious relic to a Native American tribe. 

The two-foot tall wooden statue belongs to the Zuni nation in New Mexico. The war god idol was donated to Albion’s collection 45 years ago. But only recently did the college realize the idol’s significance and the need to return it to the tribe.  

The Zuni have spent decades trying to reclaim artifacts removed from their tribal lands.

“Most of them that have come into public collections are objects that were taken away from Zuni lands.  They were taken from alters that are out in the open,” says Bille Wickre, an art history professor at Albion. 

Wickre discovered the idol in the college’s collection while preparing to teach a class on Native American art.  

Federal law requires institutions to return artifacts to Native American tribes.

She says members of the tribe will be in Albion this week to reclaim the war god idol and perform certain rituals.

“In order to purify the spaces where the god has been, during the last 45 years, and to prepare the god to return to Zuni,” says Wickre.

After holding private ceremonies, tribal members will meet with the public Thursday in Albion.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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