Re: Repatriation
Mon, 23 Sep 1996 10:52:06 -0500

On Sat, 21 Sep 1996, Susan S. Chin wrote:

> Thanks for your informative perspective Rebecca. What concerns me about
> NAGPRA is that, if carried out fully, there may very well be little material
> left for study, especially the skeletal collections, many of which have
> been and continue to be reburied (from what I've read) in accordance with
> the Repatriation Act. What does the future hold for North American
> prehistory studies, as the body of materials available for study dwindles?
> Something I wonder about since that was my area of interest as an undergrad.
> Is there a point to pursue further studies in light of this.

Body of material dwindles...BWAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Archaeologists spent, oh,
how many decades digging stuff up, putting it in cabinets, and then
forgetting all about it? It would require dumptrucks, not NAGPRA, to put
us out of business. (And actually, from the contract archaeology
perspective, dumptrucks are keeping us *in* business).

Not to deride the effects of NAGPRA -- we are going to lose some
information, perhaps completely. But on the other hand, we are going to
gain a great deal. The question of cultural affiliation is making us
look at assemblages in ways we have either never thought of, or
dismissed. In either case, we are challenged to look at our data in new
ways. This is because archaeology is no longer the exclusive province of
archaeologists -- we are having to answer to public constituencies, which
we should have been doing all along.

I was talking about the long-term future of NAGPRA with Iowa's state
arkie, and he is of the opinion that after a couple of decades of
litigation, the feds are going to say 'enough already -- let's just
settle this', sort of like that original-lands thing of the 50's and
60's. He may be right; I wasn't around then.

I think archaeology is going to see significant changes, but I don't
think we're going to be out of business. I think the greatest challenge
to an archaeological career is the number of people pursuing one.

Rebecca Lynn Johnson
Ph.D. cand., Dept. of Anthropology, U Iowa.