Re: Repatriation

rus n sheptak (
Mon, 23 Sep 1996 17:25:56 GMT

In article <>,
Susan S. Chin <> wrote:

[Rebecca Lynn Johnson's reply've already seen it]

>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.


NAGPRA is really about control; who controls the skeletal material and grave
goods from pre-columbian populations in the United States. Yes, the
repatriated materials may be re-buried by the group which receives them, but
not all are doing so. Many are establishing museums of their own. Other
groups have no interest in the return of skeletal materials.

North American archaeology is about a lot more than just skeletal materials.
I just don't agree with you that the body of materials available for
study is going to decrease in any significant fashion, unless you are a
physical anthropologist who relies on museum collections. Archaeologists
are going to continue to find, and excavate graves. They will be forced
to do better record keeping, and to analyze the burials faster, but NAGPRA
does not preclude study, only the long term retention of skeletal materials.

The only thing I find ridiculous about NAGPRA is that the government did
not supply funding to the museums to comply with this costly regulation. Its
been an incredibly expensive process for any museum which has significant


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