The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) outlines a legal process by which federally recognize Native American tribes could reclaim their ancestors, sacred objects, and communally-owned objects from museums. At that time, many museum employees, bioarchaeologists, and archaeologists were afraid that NAGPRA constituted an existential threat to museums. In the three decades since, NAGPRA has been slow to take hold (for a variety of reasons) and only about 30% of the Native American ancestors have been repatriated. This lecture examples the repatriation movement in archaeology with a specific emphasis on the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which is a recognized world leader in these efforts.
Dr. Steve Nash is an archaeologist, columnist, historian of science, and stand-up comedian. He is currently studying the Mogollon archaeology of southwestern New Mexico, Indian peace medals in the Museum’s Crane Collection, and the enchanting Russian gem carving sculptures of Vasily Konovalenko. He has written and edited seven books and dozens of peer-reviewed articles on subjects ranging from Neanderthal stone tools to tree-ring dates, the history of museums to Southwestern archaeology. He has published nearly 40 Curiosities columns for the SAPIENS online magazine, on topics ranging from ancient Roman hygiene to Leonardo da Vinci, and from the Huey helicopter to the use of GPS systems. He has been at the Museum for 13 years; prior to this he served as head of collections in the Department of Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. Eons ago, he served as a tour guide and lecturer at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):
A recent “Curiosities” post on the topic at SAPIENS.org
Some recent publications:
Colwell, Chip, and Stephen E. Nash
2020 Why We Repatriate: On the Long Arc Towards Justice at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In Working with and for Ancestors: Collaboration in the Care and Study of Ancestral Remains, edited by Chelsea Meloche, Laure Spake, and Katherine Nichols. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp. 79-90.
Nash, Stephen E., and Chip Colwell.
2020 NAGPRA at 30: The Effects of Repatriation. Annual Review of Anthropology 49-225-239.
To register for the Zoom lecture click here.