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German Museum Repatriates Historical Lakota Chief’s Shirt

The Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, Germany announced that it has returned the shirt belonging to a Lakota tribe chief to his descendants.

The shirt was returned to Duan Hollow Horn Bear last month, who is the current chief of the Lakota tribe. He is also the great-grandson of Chief Daniel Hollow Horn Bear, to whom the shirt belonged. The actual restitution process began in 2019 when Duan visited Frankfurt and requested the museum to return the shirt along with a 1900 photograph. Duan also released a video after seeing the shirt and photograph in the museum.

Daniel Hollow Horn Bear wearing the shirt, photographed in 1900

Daniel Hollow Horn Bear was the chief of the Lakota tribe and a well-respected politician in the United States. He was well-known for fighting for the rights of the native Americans. Often, he served as a negotiator in issues between the native tribes and the US government. He died in 1913. The shirt was donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1906 by millionaire Graham Phelps Stokes. In 1908, as part of cultural exchange, the shirt was given to the Weltkulturen Museum. For the last 3 decades, the shirt was loaned to the nearby German Leather Museum.

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In a statement, the Weltkulturen Museum said:

“For Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear and his family, the return of the shirt is like the return of the great-grandfather himself.”

Additionally, Ina Hartwig (Deputy Mayor, Frankfurt) said:

“Even if it represents a loss for the collection and the object was legally acquired by the Weltkulturen Museum: I see the return of the leather shirt to Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear as an obligation that outweighs the formal legal situation.”