I just got in last night from a 3 day trip to work with the Stockbridge Munsee Tribe in Wisconsin. They are participating with us on our repatriation manual. I am glad we are including other tribes in this project, the information I am getting is great, a lot of different issues and advice I would have never thought of. But being gone means more work waiting for me at the office, and there is no shortage of messages and mail I have to respond to today. One of my on going jobs is to make sure museums are moving forward with their dispositions. Some of the information I requested regarding a certain disposition came in today. Going through new information is one of the favorite parts of my job. A few sentences can change the whole out come of a disposition, it can actually affiliate the remains to a tribe, or transfer legal control from one museum to another.
It’s great to see other tribes and how they operate in their NAGPRA duties. I am finding so many similarities in the barriers and difficulties we encounter. Many times I ask myself “do other tribes have to deal with these issues” and I am finding out, yes, they do. One issue that is a major complaint for tribes is proving an item is sacred. The best advice I can give is for meaningful consultation, but if a museum has a predetermined idea on the item in question, it’s hard to make them see the tribe’s point of view. I have seen so many cases where tribes have waited years, sometimes over a decade, for an item to be returned. This in its self shows how important and sacred that item is to a tribe.