November 28, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:26 pm

NAGPRA update This link to a Nature article is sub-only so most of you can’t read it. I’ll excerpt a bit:

Anthropologists lobby to retain Native Indian skeletons for study.

Alarm is growing among anthropologists in the United States over a plan that could empty institutions of about 120,000 human skeletons currently stored for research purposes.

Under a new proposal, the bones at museums, universities and federal facilities across the nation could be given to Native American tribes now living in the area from which the remains were excavated, even if the skeletons are not culturally identifiable to the tribes. In October, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) programme, the agency that oversees the handling of American Indian remains, opened a 90-day comment period on the proposal.

It would affect ancient skeletons similar to the Kennewick Man specimen from Washington state. Scientists won a long court battle to keep that 9,000-year-old skeleton for study after attempts to give it to tribes for likely disposal.

This is the first I’ve heard of this. I can’t imagine it will ever be implemented since it specifically goes against the specific wording of NAGPRA which pretty clearly specifies that the will of Congress was to repatriate remains with cearly identifiable relationships to existing tribes. I can’t imagine that no suits would be filed within a half-second of its attempted implementation:

“The rules would be disastrous,” says Phillip Walker, an anthroplogist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A former member of NAGPRA’s seven-person review committee, Walker helped prepare the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) comments.

Comments are pretty typical with the usual moaning about peoples’ “relatives” sitting in museums, others decrying Indian conspiracies, etc.


  1. For why there is alarm, check out the article on the Indigenous Issues Today news blog. It seems to have to do with the language being proposed.

    Comment by Peter N. Jones — December 1, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  2. This has come up before. I argued in an earlier couple of posts that simply inserting “or was” into the language doesn’t necessarily mean that remains can be willy-nilly repatriated. But I’ll have to look at the links in that link closer to see exactly what they’ve done.

    Comment by Anthony — December 1, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

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