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Seattle teen challenges father to investigate ethics of holding a Native American sacred belonging

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Elizabeth Campbell

Director of the Center for Art Collection Ethics

Isabel Folck

Center for Art Collections Ethics Graduate Assistant

Blog  •
Sara Jacobsen, left. Retrieved from KUOW.

Sara Jacobsen, left. Retrieved from

“ our country there are so many things that white people have taken that are not theirs, and I didn’t want to continue that pattern.” A Seattle teen, Sara Jacobsen, made this candid remark when describing a cultural property dilemma faced by her family. Thanks to an art history class at her high school, Sara realized that a Native American robe displayed in her father’s home for thirty years is not merely a decorative piece; it is a sacred Chilkat robe created by Native Americans in Alaska and British Columbia who believe it carries the spirits of their ancestors. With some help from the Burke Museum in Seattle, Sara's father confirmed the robe’s religious importance and donated the robe to the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, Alaska, where master weavers have been examining it. SHI Executive Director Rosita Worl hopes the story will prompt other collectors to reconsider whether they should be holding sacred Native American belongings.

Read more here.