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83 Chapter 3 Finding Our Way Home ERIC HEMENWAY Introduction Throughout Indian Country,1 introductions are very important. You are expected to announce yourself by providing information including who you are, where you come from, and what tribe you are from. Therefore, before the purpose of this chapter is presented, I feel obligated to state some personal facts. My name is Eric Hemenway. I am an Odawa/Anishnaabek2 from Cross Village, Michigan. I work for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB Odawa) in northern Michigan in their NAGPRA program. I have been with this program for over five years and have worked with over twenty museums across the country, as well as with Michigan tribes and tribes from other states on multiple repatriations of human remains and cultural objects. LTBB Odawa was awarded a 2009 NAGPRA consultation/documentation grant to create a repatriation manual for tribes that guides them through the various components of running a NAGPRA program. A large part of this manual requires gathering advice and expertise from tribes across the country that have active NAGPRA programs. Interviewing these tribes has been a very educational experience . It has given me a greater perspective of NAGPRA and how tribes implement it. Additionally, I am currently serving a four-year term (2010–2013) on the NAGPRA Review Committee3 where I have the opportunity to further the work of NAGPRA on a national level. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a better understanding of what NAGPRA means to tribes, the impact repatriation has on Native communities , and the reasons tribes go through the struggle of having remains and items returned to their communities. I write this chapter from the viewpoint of a tribal person; a perspective, I feel, that is often forgotten in the realm of legal and scholarly opinions. My experience as an Odawa who works on NAGPRA, locally and nationally , provides the foundational work of this chapter. Repatriation is such a unique line of work; it encompasses vastly different issues: religion, history, law, human rights, tribal identity, tribal lands, graves/burial sites, and the dead. I feel that the legal aspects of NAGPRA and the effect of NAGPRA 84 CHAPTER 3 on museums and federal agencies tend to receive the most attention. But the real issue, from mine and many others’ perspectives, both Indian and non-Indian, is that NAGPRA is about human rights. Part of recognizing a group’s human rights is the need to recognize their belief systems and one of the core elements of those beliefs is the right to retain a group’s identity. By identity, I mean their worldview, sacred and religious beliefs, and cultural practices. To me, identity is at the core of NAGPRA. Every person, every ethnic group, has an inalienable right to worship and practice their beliefs as they see fit. For tribes, our traditions and beliefs are a few of the only aspects of our identities that are still within the ownership of the tribes. For centuries , our beliefs were under attack, under persecution, and even deemed illegal. Land, language, people, and items were all stolen from every tribe in the United States. The very core of tribal identities was challenged. But our beliefs carried us through these dark times, solidified who we were, and promoted the continuation of age-old rites and customs. While the world changed drastically from generation to generation for the tribes of the United States, those tribes still held onto their beliefs and honored their dead as best they could. Without the traditional knowledge, customs, ceremonies , and sacred items to help perpetuate identity, the very essence of who we are as a people would have died out. People (both living and dead), ceremonies, beliefs, and communities are all elements influenced by NAGPRA. Native American tribes across the country, as well as Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives,4 have different beliefs and ceremonies, and use different items. One common characteristic we all share is a fundamental belief in the importance of respecting the dead, and the need for certain sacred objects to be returned for the revival and continuation of ceremonies that are important to our tribes’prosperityandoverallwell-being.TribesdevelopNAGPRAprogramsbecause they know it is their responsibility to take care of their dead and their sacred items; nobody will or should do it for them. This was true before the arrival of Europeans and is still true today. As Native Americans, our culture has been fragmented; in some cases, literally stolen from...


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