Repatriation of sacred indigenous cultural heritage and the law: Lessons from the United States and Canada

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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The thesis focusses on sacred cultural heritage that was taken from indigenous communities during colonialism and remains in museum collections both in Europe and abroad. Such heritage has been the frequent subject of claims by indigenous communities who seek the return of the heritage that was taken in the past. Tünsmeyer examines how the legal aspects of such returns can be structured and which elements need to be taken into account to align these returns with contemporary human rights law. Both in Canada and in the United States laws have been passed that affect or even regulate such returns. The central question of the research therefore considers how future returns, including those from European collections, could be structured to reflect both the lessons learned in the US and Canada and current human rights standards. The dissertation offers guidelines and models to help museums and policymakers in the drafting of laws or policies that structure return mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Schneider, Hildegard, Supervisor
  • Coomans, Fons, Supervisor
Award date22 Oct 2020
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Print ISBNs9789463809528
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • colonial-era heritage
  • indigenous peoples
  • museums
  • repatriation
  • return
  • human rights

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