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TribesAgree To Share Meteorite

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP)  JUNE22, 2000 — The heads of the Museum ofNatural History and an American Indian group signed an agreement Thursday toshare custody of a 10,000-year-old meteorite that's a centerpiece of themuseum's new planetarium.

"What a milestone it is tohave reached this agreement here,'' said Kathryn Harrison, chairwoman ofOregon's Grand Ronde Tribal Council, after the deal was finalized at a newsconference at the museum.

The 16-ton meteorite became acentral attraction in the planetarium when it opened in February. But the tribalcouncil claimed ownership of the rock, which holds tremendous religioussignificance to the Clackamas tribe, part of the council.

Under the agreement, the meteoritewill remain in Manhattan, but the tribe will receive access for an annualceremonial visit to the museum.

To the museum, the WillametteMeteorite was a unique scientific specimen, the iron core of a planet shatteredin an outer space collision.

To the Clackamas, Tomanowas — asthey called the meteorite — was sent to Earth as a representative of the"Sky People.'' The meteorite represented a union of sky, earth and water;tribal hunters would dip their arrows in rainwater collected in its basins.

"Isay Tomanowas still has its power,'' Harrison said. "Look what it's done.Whoever thought it would end up here? Whoever thought it would be the center ofthis new museum?''

The deal between the two endedfour months of negotiations and prevents a court battle for custody.

The museum bought the meteorite in1906, four years after a part-time miner named Ellis G. Hughes discovered andremoved it from land belonging to an iron company.

Hughes charged a quarter to seethe meteorite until a court order returned it to the iron company in 1905. A NewYork philanthropist bought it for $20,600 and donated it to the museum.


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