Delegates will visit the Vatican’s collection of indigenous artifacts

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ROME – Indigenous delegates who traveled to Rome to meet Pope Francis are due to take a private tour of the Vatican Museums today.

The Ethnological Museum includes the Vatican’s collection of indigenous artifacts, some of which have not been seen publicly.

Conservators and Indigenous experts said they were unable to access the unknown number of items in the possession of the Roman Catholic Church.

Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron says she expects not only an apology, but also access to the items.

She says they are important parts of Métis history.

Much of the Vatican’s current collection comes from a former pope who decided to hold a world’s fair in 1925.

A message was sent at that time to missionaries around the world to send in articles. More than 100,000 objects and works of art were exhibited.

The Vatican says parts of its collection were gifts to popes and the Catholic Church. In 2019, the pope has pledged to exhibit many more objects, including those of indigenous peoples.

The collection of the Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum is known to contain masks, wampum belts, pipes and rugs, as well as other objects from indigenous communities in North America.

Indigenous experts said they had no details of which items were identified and no idea how many remain unknown.

Many objects were taken away after the Canadian government banned cultural practices through the Indian Act in 1876. Ceremonial objects and other important items were seized and then sold, donated to museums or destroyed.

Métis and Inuit delegates met with Pope Francis on Monday. Delegates from both groups said they demanded an apology for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in residential schools in Canada.

Caron said that in addition to any apologies, what is needed is access to residential school documents and items from the Vatican collection.

“These artifacts tell a story about our communities. This is our story,” she said. “We’ve heard from our survivors that many of them need it to move forward.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 29, 2022.

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