The United States and Ecuador celebrated the Smithsonian Museum’s repatriation of ancestral remains to three indigenous communities in Ecuador

Representatives of the Smithsonian Museum, INPC, Ministry of Culture, and the U.S. Diplomatic Mission.

Quito, May 30, 2023.  The United States and Ecuador celebrated the repatriation of ancestral remains from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to three indigenous communities in Manabí, Esmeraldas and Pichincha. The National Institute of Cultural Heritage (INPC) registered the arrival of the ancestral remains in Ecuador during an official ceremony.  

The ancestral remains, which were previously located at the NMAI in Washington, DC, were repatriated to the Sequita Commune and the Pepa de Huso Commune of Manabí, the Chachi Federation of Esmeraldas, and the Kayambi People of Pichincha. The repatriation occurred in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the NMAI of the United States and the Ministry of Culture in 2019. 

The ceremony was attended by Michael J. Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador; María Elena Machuca, Minister of Culture; Catalina Tello, Executive Director of INPC; Jackie Swift, Repatriation Manager of the National Museum of the American Indian; NMAI delegates, among other authorities. 

“This repatriation is focused on Ecuador’s indigenous communities. The Smithsonian Museum has maintained a direct line of communication with communities, respecting their customs, traditions, and preferences according to their own worldview. The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are a central focus for the U.S. Government, and we respect Ecuador’s indigenous communities,” said Ambassador Fitzpatrick. 

NMAI considers the respectful treatment and repatriation of ancestral remains to their communities of origin to be a fundamental human right. This repatriation demonstrates the importance the United States places on the preservation of cultural heritage and highlights respect for the cultural heritage of indigenous communities.