Indians book offers new perspective on grave robbins

Fri, 1 Apr 1994 14:26:18 -0700

Indians' Book offers new perspective on grave robbing.

Article by Kevin McCullen, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer, 4/1/94

A new book by two Indian scholars could offer students another
perspective on a sacrilege perpetrated for years against the dead.
In Battlefields and Burial Grounds, Walter and Roger Echo-Hawk
detail the history of the desecration of Indian grave sites in the United
States since white settlers arrived in the New World.
They also trace the development of a federal law designed to
protect Indian grave sites and repatriate Indian remains from museums and
laboratories, and effort that continues across the country.
Publishers of the Echo-Hawks' book hope to target it for
distribution in high schools as a supplementary book or for sale in
selected stores. The Echo-Hawks kept the book to under 100 pages, and they
hope it reaches school libraries or classrooms.
"This issue has been a serious human rights problem for Native
Americans, at least since 1620 when the Pilgrims dug up Indian graves, to
the present day," said Walter Echo-Hawk, senior staff attorney for the
Boulder - based Native American Rights Fund.
"It involved some fundamental racial stereotypes of Native
Americans. We have the same religious sensibilities as other people in
respect to the treatment of our dead," he said.
He and his brother, a historian, say Indians historically were
denied the same legal protections against grave robbing that other races
enjoyed in the United States.
In 1868, the U.S. surgeon general issued orders to the Army to
collect Indian remains from burial sites and battlefields. Thousands of
remains were sent to Washington, including the head of Cheyennes, Arapaho
and Kiowas killed in Colorado's Sand Creek massacre, the Echo-Hawks write.
Pot hunters also trashed Indian graves in search of artifacts over
the years. The practice continued largely relatively unchecked until a
"reburial movement" emerged in the 1980's.
In 1990 the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
became law. It protects Indian graves on federal and tribal lands, bans
the sale of such remains, gives tribes authority over the treatment of
unmarked graves and required the federal government and federally funded
institutions to inventory and repatriate Indian remains.
"This is a matter of basic respect and educating people to the
issue in ways they can understand," Walter Echo-Hawk said.