Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Open Forum essay in San Francisco Chronicle

Who owns the past?
Corbin Collins

If asked to enumerate their human rights, I doubt that most Americans would mention the right to control their dead. This is not because there is no such right; rather, the entitlement is so basic and universally extended that it is hardly recognized as a "right" by most people.

But suppose America were occupied by a foreign invader whose scientists pillaged our cemeteries and shipped our ancestors' remains home for research. I have little doubt that most Americans would regard this as a fundamental violation of human rights and dignity.
The United States, of course, allowed this to happen to its indigenous people. Although our government acknowledged almost every other group's spiritual and legal claim to their dead, for much of American history it did not extend this basic human entitlement to Native Americans. Huge quantities of their ancestral remains and sacred objects were shipped to research institutions such as UC Berkeley's Hearst Museum, which houses the second largest such collection in the nation. In 1990, Congress tried to redress the injustice by passing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which requires museums to repatriate human remains and sacred objects to tribes.

rest at


Peter N. Jones said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The U.S. has a terrible history when it comes to dealing with the Native peoples of this land. I tried to find some good coming out of NAGPRA, which I published on the Indigenous Issues Today news blog that may be of interest. Otherwise, you are spot on!

Swinomish1 said...

This is an open invitation for anyone who is out there on Mother Earth to tune in to a special interview with Corbin Collins who is a Bay Area writer and communications director for the Native American NAGPRA Coalition.

Corbin Collins & others TBA will on NAMAPAHH First People's Radio with host/producer Robin Carneen webstreaming oh her show can be heard at

THIS Thursday 9-27-07
7-8:30pm PST

Native Americans & Social Justice Allies to Rally at UC Berkeley to Protect Native Ancestral Remains & Sacred Objects
Where: Sproul Plaza at UCB
When: October 5, 2007 at High Noon

NAMAPAHH First People's Radio
KSVR 91.7 FM Mt Vernon, WA
Also on Sundays 4-5pm

News, Views & Music from in & around Indian Country...

Annie Humphrey; Mary Youngblood; Goodshield & the Seventh Generation; M'Girl; and many more native voices...

"We are still here"
~please join us~
Robin Carneen

Anonymous said...

I totally support that! Continue that way!