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7 Introduction SANGITA CHARI AND JAIME M.N. LAVALLEE The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA; 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) marked its twentieth anniversary on November 16, 2010. At the time we both worked for the National Park Service in the National NAGPRA Program. Inspired by the significance of the anniversary, the National NAGPRA Program convened a small group of practitioners representing NAGPRA’s main constituents —museums, federal agencies, Native Hawaiians, and Indian tribes—to develop a symposium to recognize the occasion. At the first meeting, it became apparent that before we could delve into the practical aspects of planning the event, we had to come to consensus about just how this occasion would be commemorated. Some saw the anniversary as a time of celebration and an opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous progress made since the 1990s. Others felt the occasion was more appropriately marked by recognizing the solemn reality that, after twenty years, a substantial number of human remains and cultural items are still in museums and federal repositories. We all agreed that the anniversary provided an important opportunity to share experiences and reflect on twenty years of NAGPRA implementation . The basis for this book grew out of our work with the symposium committee. It reflects our desire to acknowledge the tremendous work accomplished by NAGPRA practitioners and to elevate the voices of those who do the daily work of NAGPRA, in tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, museums, and federal agencies around the country. The intent of NAGPRA The passage of NAGPRA was to end the centuries-old practice of removing human remains and cultural items from Native American graves, lands, and communities; treating them as collectibles to be stored, studied, and displayed in museums and repositories in the name of scientific study, education, and “cultural preservation.” Such practices flourished because despite the existence of federal laws that protected gravesites and property, the laws did not extend to Native Americans.1 Instead, their dead and cultural items were treated as property for the benefit of the American public. As a result, Native Americans were systematically disenfranchised and denied 8 INTRODUCTION access and authority over their graves and cultural items, which were taken without permission or under duress. NAGPRA acknowledged that these collections were the result, directly or indirectly, of values and practices that conflated scientific discovery withownership,andbroughttolightthequestionablecollectingpracticesthatpreyed upon impoverished or dispossessed Native Americans. It is this past that underlies why, at the time of its passage, NAGPRA was hailed as a significant landmark in civil rights, human rights, and Indian law. As Senator Daniel Inouye testified, “In light of the important role that death and burial rites play in Native American cultures, it is all the more offensive that the civil rights of America’s first citizens have been so flagrantly violated for the past century. Mr. President, the bill before us today is not about the validity of museums or the value of scientific inquiry. Rather, it is about human rights.”2 Twenty years later, the way museums and federal agencies view, interact, and care for Native American human remains and objects has undergone a significant change. Inherent in the NAGPRA process is an acknowledgment that every object and every set of human remains carries cultural, religious, spiritual, and social significance that is to be valued as much as (or more than) scientific analysis. No longer are they treated as discrete objects and specimens disconnected and irrelevant to present-day Native Americans. Rather, they are considered to be ancestors and objects of ongoing significance and meaning to their living descendants. NAGPRA overview In its most basic form, NAGPRA requires federal agencies and museums to repatriate the Native American human remains and objects in their collections. NAGPRA also requires federal agencies to work with Indian tribes3 and Native Hawaiian organizations4 when Native American remains and cultural items are discovered or removed from federal or tribal lands.5 NAGPRA has two elements: the statute under 25 U.S.C. 3001 and the regulations at 43 CFR 10. The NAGPRA statute outlines the framework, but the NAGPRA regulations provide the implementation process, including timelines, procedures, and guidelines.6 NAGPRA’s reach is expansive. All federally recognized Indian tribes, which include Alaska Native villages and Native Hawaiian organizations, are allowed to repatriate under NAGPRA. Also covered is every federal agency except the Smithsonian Institution,7 and every institution that meets the NAGPRA definition of a museum.8 NAGPRA goes beyond the typical definition of a museum to...


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