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197 Chapter 8 Implementing NAGPRA at History Colorado: Applying Cultural Property Legacy Collections and Forging Tribal Partnerships BRIDGET AMBLER and SHEILA GOFF Introduction HistoryColorado(HC,formerlytheColoradoHistoricalSociety)isthestatehistory museum. Along with its collection and preservation responsibilities, HC administers educational programming, publications, exhibits, the State Historical Fund (SHF), and the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP). As a museum institution that receives federal funding, HC is required to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).1 This chapter provides an overview of the agency’s collecting history, our response to implementing NAGPRA, tribal collaborations, and solutions to challenges presented by NAGPRA. When NAGPRA was passed on November 16, 1990, HC had been collecting American Indian objects and human remains for more than one hundred years. NAGPRA required a full accounting of the HC collections, and also something new—sitting at the table with tribes to discuss our collections as colleagues. As part of our continuing efforts to implement legal compliance and to reflect upon the impact of NAGPRA twenty years after the law’s passage, the first and current HC NAGPRA liaisons (Bridget Ambler and Sheila Goff, respectively) share their perspectives here. Ambler was raised in the American Southwest and spent much of her childhood exploring its hidden landscapes with her family. Her father, John Richard (Dick) Ambler, was a professor of archaeology at Northern Arizona University, who specialized in Ancestral Puebloan culture, and often took the family on field expeditions in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Ambler began working for her father as an archaeological field technician when she was 13, and continued on to pursue degrees in anthropology from Northern Arizona University (undergraduate) and Colorado State University(graduate).ShewasemployedasacontractarchaeologistintheSouthwest andRockyMountainregions,includinganumberofprojectsontriballands.Hertenure at HC began as an archaeological information specialist and a human osteologist 198 CHAPTER 8 with the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation in 1995. Around the same time, the Material Culture department was completing its NAGPRA inventory,2 and Ambler was recruited to help in that effort. She began working with the NAGPRA coordinator, Roger Echo-Hawk and Assistant Curator Carolyn McArthur. Ambler was hired as the NAGPRA liaison in 1996 while Echo-Hawk transitioned to work at the Denver Art Museum. Ambler continued as NAGPRA liaison until 2005, when McArthur left for other opportunities and Ambler was promoted to curator, which included oversight of the HC NAGPRA program. Goff’s interest in NAGPRA began while she was doing archaeological fieldwork for the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the mid 1990s. In 2003, she entered the Museum and Field Studies Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At that time, the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History was in the midst of conducting consultations to complete its inventories. Being able to participate in numerous consultations with southwestern tribes fueled her interest in NAGPRA and gave her the experience needed to work at HC. As HC began its inventory, we first learned about the collection amassed over time that resulted in large numbers of Native American human remains and cultural objects in our possession. Additionally, we learned to understand the relationship between state law and federal law and how to work within both. We recognized that if we were going to address tribal concerns about issues such as the disposition of culturally unidentifiable human remains, we needed to forge collaborative relationships not only with the various departments of HC but also with other state agencies and tribes. We tapped into the expertise and experiences of the National NAGPRA Program,theReviewCommittee,andotherstates,likeIowa,thatweregrapplingwith the same issues. The work is ongoing. Through NAGPRA, we have improved our knowledge of our collections. Our tribal partnerships have transcended NAGPRA, and have enhanced interpretation in our exhibits and education programs, and we are better able to convey to a general audience what Native American community members want others to understand about them. Collections history On August 1, 1879, the Colorado State Historical and Natural History Society was established in direct response to HB134, which sought contributions “particularly from pioneer settlers of the country.”3 The objectives of the new organization were to collect and preserve Colorado’s history and natural history, relying largely on memberships throughout the state.4 After moving to a series of temporary locations, HC eventually found a more permanent home in the State Capitol in 1895. At this point, the organization was little more than an assemblage of cabinet curiosities, but that would soon change. IMPLEMENTING NAGPRA...


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