Author: Jennifer Thomas

Esteemed benefactors, honored guests:

Thank you for attending today’s repatriation ceremony.

We begin with our customary Planetary Acknowledgment. We gratefully recognize the communities on whose ancestral and unceded planet we gather today. We acknowledge the planetary dispossession and involuntary removals suffered by the inhabitants. While we have no intention of ceding the planet back to them, we honor them by humbly seeking knowledge of their history and customs.

Our subject today is the return of all items in Lot 864NV, here before you. Working with advisors from the remaining communities on this planet, the Provenance Research Unit has classified these objects as culturally significant artifacts. We determined that they were looted by the scouting parties who arrived here more than 300 years ago, in search of habitable land. Can you believe we treated our own planet like one big toilet back then?

But I digress. The items in question were stored away on the colony ship and forgotten. The trove was rediscovered when the ship, nearing the end of its useful life, was dismantled. The owners of the colonization fleet, baffled by what they had, sent the objects to our Interplanetary Museum Network. They were arranged as a traveling collection and have been on display throughout the empire ever since.

May I share a personal note with you today? As a museum curator, I wrestle with difficult ethical choices in situations like this. Children and adults alike have delighted in viewing objects from this planet. By returning the items, are we taking away meaningful learning experiences that can spark curiosity and interest in unfamiliar cultures? Well, probably. But the claims of this planet’s communities are unassailable. The objects were stolen and must be returned.

As an aside, I call your attention to Item 864NV-94. Curiously, our advisors have been uninterested in its return to the planet’s communities. We have sensed disdain for it, even revulsion, on their part. Yet it has been among the most popular with museumgoers as well as scholars, with its intricate metal latticework, its wheels, its peculiar script. The text appearing on the object was translated a decade ago, leading to much debate and endless dissertations on its meaning. What does it imply about the ancient diet, economy, geography, even child-rearing customs on this planet? With the object’s repatriation today, these questions may remain mysteries forever. I leave you with the words that mark the object, which I will try to convey in the original language. Forgive any errors in my pronunciation!

“Whole Foods A Subsidiary of Amazon Warning Do Not Leave Children Unattended In Carts Thank You For Shopping With Us.”