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Mellon Foundation Provides $1,000,000 to Help Facilitate the Return of Objects to Indigenous Communities

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) has received a gift of $1,000,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the “Going Home: Returning Material Culture to Indigenous Communities Project.” The project facilitates the return of culturally significant items to descendant communities with cultural facilities. Additional funding to support international returns is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is supporting returns to California tribes.

In addition to providing financial support to tribes seeking the return of cultural items, the Going Home Fund focuses on raising public awareness about the importance of returning culturally significant items to Indigenous communities, building relationships between tribal museums and non-Native collections institutions and individual collectors, as well as building the capacity of tribal museums to seek loans and gifts of culturally significant items.

To launch the project, the Fund is working with the Museum of the Cherokee People and individual donors to return over 200 objects to descendant communities. Available objects may be viewed on the Going Home Fund portal. From the portal, descendant communities may request the return of items. Cultural experts may also provide additional information about the items.

The Going Home Fund is led by an Advisory Council of museum professionals, tribal leaders, and attorneys with expertise in repatriation, gifts, and museum loans. Walter Richard "Rick" West, a member of ATALM’s governing board and President Emeritus of the Autry Museum of the American West, is leading the project.

“We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its support. We are committed to working with tribal communities and collecting institutions in a respectful and collaborative way,” said West. “It is our hope that the Going Home Fund will remove any financial and institutional barriers that have prevented the return of material culture to the originating communities. We look forward to facilitating long-overdue homecomings and enhancing the cultural continuity of Native communities.”

To view the portal and access related forms, please visit


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at


The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) is an international association dedicated to preserving and advancing the language, history, culture, and lifeways of Indigenous peoples. Founded in 2010, ATALM maintains a network of support for Indigenous cultural programs, provides professional development training, enables collaboration among tribal and non-tribal cultural institutions, and advocates for programs and funding to sustain the cultural sovereignty of Native Nations. To learn more, visit


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