Most of the day was spent transcribing an interview with a tribe from Wisconsin. This is part of our documentation grant, a repatriation manual project that is covering tribes from all over the u.s.a. Going back and listening makes me realize just how much tribes across the country have in common when it comes to struggles under NAGPRA. There is some success, but there is also the sense of frustration that more could be done and museums don’t exactly adhere to the same set of guidelines the tribes are forced to. I can’t explain how frustrating it is when a museum says your tribe did not demonstrate clearly enough how a specific item is sacred and therefore the claim is denied.
What Indian people should view as sacred has always been debated. From the first missionaries to the Indian religious Freedom Act of the 20th century, the battle for Indians to have unrestricted beliefs is something that non-native people have been party to. This opposition carries over into NAGRPA, in a huge way. What is sacred is the basis for much of the work in tribal communities. And what is not sacred, as determined by museum staff, directly brings this old confrontation of beliefs systems into the present-day. We as Indian people have the freedom to carry on our beliefs, now it’s time to get the items back that will help in strengthing these beliefs.