This past Monday night I gave a talk to a local historical society about what I do and why my tribe as created such a position within our tribal government. The common person usually has no idea about NAGPRA and the issues that surround it and why it was created. I had to explain to this group (most were elderly) the history of collections and how many items in museums are actually human remains. As with other groups, the response was shock, which turned to many people shaking their heads in the audience. “why would anybody want to dig up a grave” is a question I hear over and over, yet I can’t give a satisfactory answer.
It’s encouraging to hear support from groups outside the tribal community. I have spoken with a few of the new school archeological students and there seems to trend in backing away from the old school, hard-line train of thought in the archeological field. People matter, dead or alive. I hope more people learn from the past and try hard not to repeat what has happened. But in the meantime, it’s confronting the old school head on.