This November, a conference will be held for two days before the Review Committee meeting in Washington D.C. This conference or symposium, is to discuss NAGPRA at it’s 20 yr mark. Some hesitate to call this a celebration, but I would say that it is. Before NAGPRA, nothing went back unless a museum was kind-hearted enough to return something to a tribe/tribes. But nothing was law and the majority of museums and federal agencies simply ignored the many tribal communities who brought up the issue of returning their ancestors and sacred objects. Now, there is something in place that forces museums and fed agencies to hear out the tribes and return what rightfully belongs to the tribe. Every time we have any remains returned, it is an accomplishment and a wonderful feeling of doing the right thing. It’s a good feeling yet it’s a very sad feeling, sometimes the sadness outweighing everything else.
I am looking forward to this event,which will look at the past, present and future of NAGPRA. I can see where people who have worked for many years on repatriation would be reluctent to see this as a celebration. But I get excited to get a federal register notice published, I get anxious when driving to get remains, if it’s 4 states over or the next county. I have read so much about how museums acquired remains by archeological digs, and now we have something in place to get these people back. We went from having no ability legally to do anything to at least having the oppurtunity to get some back. Any time Indian people have their beliefs recognized, it’s a good thing.