In the Smaller Scope of Conscience
The Struggle for National Repatriation Legislation, 1986–1990
Publication Year: 2013
In 1989, The National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) was successfully passed after a long and intense struggle. One year later, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) followed. These federal repatriation statutes—arguably some of the most important laws in the history of anthropology, museology, and American Indian rights—enabled Native Americans to reclaim human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
Twenty years later, the controversy instigated by the creation of NMAIA and NAGPRA continues to simmer. In the Smaller Scope of Conscience is a thoughtful and detailed study of the ins and outs of the four-year process behind these laws. It is a singular contribution to the history of these issues, with the potential to help mediate the ongoing debate by encouraging all sides to retrace the steps of the legislators responsible for the acts.
Few works are as detailed as McKeown’s account, which looks into bills that came prior to NMAIA and NAGPRA and combs the legislative history for relevant reports and correspondence. Testimonies, documents, and interviews from the primary players of this legislative process are cited to offer insights into the drafting and political processes that shaped NMAIA and NAGPRA.
Above all else, this landmark work distinguishes itself from earlier legislative histories with the quality of its analysis. Invested and yet evenhanded in his narrative, McKeown ensures that this journey through history—through the strategies and struggles of different actors to effect change through federal legislation—is not only accurate but eminently intriguing.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
Title Page, Copyright
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On November 28, 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAI Act), which included provisions requiring the repatriation of human remains and funerary objects in the possession or control of the Smithsonian Institution. Almost a year later, on November...
1. Tallbull’s Quest
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Tallbull was also a member of the Dog Soldiers, one of the ancient Cheyenne warrior societies entrusted with the protection of the two sacred covenants given to the Cheyenne people by the Supreme Deity. Mahuts, the four sacred arrows, were given to the Cheyenne at Bear Butte in South Dakota. Is’siwun, the sacred...
2. The Green Boxes
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Legislation to establish the National Museum of the American Indian had its inception with the response to a question at the February 20, 1987, hearing on the Native American Cultural Preservation Act. Smithsonian Secretary Robert Adams’s testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs regarding what...
3. The Political Dynamics of Public Awareness
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Senators Melcher’s and Inouye’s efforts during the 100th Congress had focused on the repatriation of collections of Native American human remains and other objects excavated long ago and then gathered in museum collections. It was only a matter of time before Congress began to address ongoing excavations...
4. The Way of the Coyote
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Although consensus on the Indian museum proposal was not achieved before the expiration of the 100th Congress, negotiations between the Smithsonian and the Heye Foundation of New York continued. Representative Byron Dorgan, apparently frustrated with the retreat on repatriation in other bills...
5. Two Practices, No Policy
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On November 21, 1989, seven days before President George H. W. Bush signed the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Act into law, Senator Daniel Inouye offered another repatriation bill. In introducing S. 1980, Inouye began by lauding the Smithsonian Institution for taking a courageous step...
6. A Defining Moment
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On July 10, 1990, Representative Morris Udall (see figure 6.1) introduced a new bill as a compromise among the various bills already under consideration by the House. The first section of H.R. 5237 provided the short title for the new bill—the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act—testament...
7. The Biggest Thing We Have Ever Done
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The number of repatriation bills ostensibly under consideration when Congress reconvened after the August 1990 recess had grown from the single ill-fated effort introduced without a cosponsor by Montana Senator John Melcher in the waning days 99th Congress, to seven different measures sponsored by five...
8. Legislative History in Interpretive Context
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President George H. W. Bush’s signature on the final page of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Act and on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) ended the opening stage of the legislative process covered in the first seven chapters of this book. Legal scholars...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013