(44)  Cultural restitution: the ghost dance shirt

On 19 November 1998 Glasgow City Council announced that it had agreed to the return to the Lakota Sioux of the ghost dance shirt worn by a member of the tribe killed at the massacre of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in December 1890. (More than 250 men, women and children of the Lakota Sioux were shot by the Seventh Cavalry in the incident.) The shirt, which was an important religious symbol enabling the wearer to invoke the spirit of his ancestors and making him invincible against the white man’s bullets, has been held at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow since January 1892, when it was given to the city by a Lakota translator working with Buffalo Bill Cody’s travelling Wild West show, which was in Glasgow at the time. A spiritual ceremony called the Wiping of the Tears will be held to mark the shirt’s return to its native soil, where it will first form part of an exhibition at the Cultural Heritage Centre, Pierre, South Dakota, before becoming a permanent exhibit in a museum to be built at Wounded Knee itself. The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Pat Lally, denounced the decision as an emotional spasm setting a dangerous precedent (Scotsman, 20 November 1998).