NAGPRA and Native Americans

Deward E. Walker Jr. (walkerde@SPOT.COLORADO.EDU)
Mon, 10 Oct 1994 10:22:09 -0600

I wish to raise my voice in opposition to certain current efforts
to sell information sessions and workshops concerning implementation of
NAGPRA on e-mail and elsewhere. It seems that such efforts are premature
and ill-advised until such time as the Tribes have had adequate
opportunity to establish their understanding of such concepts as cultural
patrimony, lineal descent, sacred, funerary goods, etc. I do not agree
that the law is clear or that the regulations now being proposed have
been sufficiently tested in specific Tribal contexts to know if they are
workable. It seems that those who know the inside workings of the Federal
establishment, various archaeologists, and others unfamiliar with the views
held by Tribes on these matters are insinuating themselves into positions
as brokers of NAGPRA relationships between Tribes, museums, agencies of
government, and universities. Unfortunately, I continue to encounter
professional workshops designed to educate museum, university, agency,
and Tribal personnel concerning
provisions of NAGPRA. These workshops are being given by people
who have little or no knowledge or
research familiarity with the issues involved in implementing NAGPRA.
It is far too early to say that we have a clear knowledge of the several
hundred Tribes affected by NAGPRA and how they view such matters as
cultural patrimony, lineal descent, sacred, funerary goods, etc.
A major problem not yet resolved in many cases concerns the means by
which issues of cultural affiliation will be resolved as it affects
ownership and repatriation of culturally sensitive objects. Yet another
unresolved major issue is to what extent museum and other professionals in
charge of collections will control the NAGPRA process and to what extent the
Tribes will. Am I confused in my understanding that the Tribes were to
control this process?

Have a nice day!

Deward Walker