Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History closes Chumash Life exhibit due to new Federal Regulations

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (courtesy)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has temporarily closed its Chumash Life exhibit in response to new federal regulations.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) established protocols for museums and other institutions to return human remains, funerary objects, and other sacred items to their Native American tribes of origin.

“Chumash Life is temporarily closed, pending Tribal consultation, in compliance with new federal NAGPRA regulations. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please visit the Sukinanik’oy Garden of Chumash Plants to learn about Chumash ethnobotany,” the museum’s website states.

The museum’s website states the exhibit includes the “largest Chumash basket ever found,” the Halford Collection of well-preserved examples of Chumash artifacts, and a Chumash plank canoe.

NAGPRA was enacted in 1990 and late last year the Department of the Interior amended it to clarify steps for its implementation. The amendment, which went into effect on January 12, 2024, states “…museums and Federal agencies must defer to the Native American traditional knowledge of lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

“The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is committed to meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribes. Department of Anthropology staff, including a dedicated NAGPRA Officer, stand ready to address a variety of requests and provide services to support our mission of repatriation,” the museum states in its official repatriation page.

Discussions with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians are set to begin next week and the museum expects to reopen the Chumash Life exhibit sometime this month.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. The SBMNH is doing the right thing! I have been going to the museum since I was a child and though I will miss Gould Hall, it was so out of date for so many reasons. Time to show the Chumash some respect and through a more collaborative lens maybe something more equitable will transpire. They deserve nothing less.

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