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Tribes Agree To Share Meteorite

June 22, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ The heads of the Museum of Natural History and an American Indian group signed an agreement Thursday to share custody of a 10,000-year-old meteorite that’s a centerpiece of the mueum’s new planetarium.

``What a milestone it is to have reached this agreement here,″ said Kathryn Harrison, chairwoman of Oregon’s Grand Ronde Tribal Council, after the deal was finalized at a news conference at the museum.

The 16-ton meteorite became a central attraction in the planetarium when it opened in February. But the tribal council claimed ownership of the rock, which holds tremendous religious significance to the Clackamas tribe, part of the council.

To the museum, the Willamette Meteorite was a unique scientific specimen, the iron core of a planet shattered in an outer space collision.

To the Clackamas, Tomanowas _ as they 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.

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

The museum bought the meteorite in 1906, four years after a part-time miner named Ellis G. Hughes discovered and removed it from land belonging to an iron company.

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

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On the Net:

American Museum of Natural History: www.AMNH.org.

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