Monday, June 7, 2010

Oops, forget something? (Part 1)

The clunky new search engine at the museum's website can be quite handy at times.

For example, look up 2-13845. Here is the link to what you will find:

Interesting to note, this has still yet to be registered with the National NAGPRA
database. I guess they assume scalps were freely taken...

40 CFR 10.11 can only work if the museums are honest in the first place!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

UM news (again)

Returning Them To Their Tribe - Michigan Museums Returning Native American Remains Charles Manley

The University of Michigan's Museum of Anthropology has a collection of around 1,400 ancient Native American remains. But they'll lose those remains under a new federal law - and the ability to conduct research with them.

The room that stores the remains of about 1,400 Native Americans is on the ground floor of a non-descript building on campus, but it looks more like a basement. Rows of industrial shelving hold 24-inch long white cardboard boxes - lengthy enough to accommodate the longest human bone - a femur. Each box has a label of a human skeleton on its side, indicated by highlighter which bones the box contains.

Carla Sinopoli is the curator of the Museum of Anthropology. She says early archaeologists had basic questions - 'how old is it?' 'how did they get their food?'. But now they ask all kinds of questions.

"How societies are formed, how beliefs are structured, how communities communicate and move," says Sinopoli, "Political questions, social questions, idealogical questions, economic questions...and the more we know the sophisticated our questions become too."

Even DNA research of human remains is relatively new. Sinopoli says there's no telling what could be learned in twenty or thirty years. But that room and all the white boxes could soon be empty.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, was created twenty years ago. The first version required all federally funded museums to take inventories of skeletal remains and try to figure out what Native American groups they belonged to. Many remains were returned to their tribes of origin, but researchers still had something to work with. The remains that couldn't be linked to tribes were left in museums.

But the law that went into effect last month requires that those remains be returned to tribes too. Sinopoli says the loss will be a permanent one.