Oct. 23, 1997
Vol. 17, No. 3

current issue
archive / search

    'Law and the Sacred'

    Conference to address issues surrounding return of Native American objects, remains Legal, administrative and ethical issues pertaining to the return of ancestral remains and sacred objects to American Indian tribes will be addressed in the conference "Law and the Sacred: Native American Repatriation," to be held on Friday, Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Swift Hall.

    Two widely recognized leaders in the effort, James Riding In of Arizona State University and Timothy McKeown, a top official with the National Park Service, will be keynote speakers.

    Morning discussions will focus on issues of interpretation and implementation of NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which is being used across the country by Native American groups to reclaim ancestral remains for reburial, as well as to reclaim cultural artifacts from museums and federally funded institutions. Conference participants will discuss problems in implementation of the act and suggestions for its improvement.

    "We will be looking at a number of important issues related to the act, including tribal sovereignty, federal law and definitions of cultural patrimony and sacred objects," said Anne Terry Straus, Lecturer in the Social Sciences and an organizer of the conference. The event is being arranged by the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences Division, with support from the Earl S. and Esther Johnson Fund.

    The conference will open with the keynote address "Repatriation after NAGPRA," given by Riding In, a Pawnee and assistant professor of justice studies at Arizona State University.

    From 10:15 to 11:45 a.m., two concurrent sessions will be offered: "Interpreting NAGPRA: Terms and Definitions" will examine the law to clarify its meaning regarding the terms "cultural patrimony" and "sacred object." The other session, "Alternative Solutions," will address ways Native Americans, museums and federal agencies go beyond the language of the statute to reach accommodations.

    During a box-lunch break, two videos examining the issues, "Science or Sacrilege" and "Long Journey Home," will be shown.

    Two panel sessions will also be held concurrently from 1:45 to 3:15 p.m. "NAGPRA Amendments: Issues and Update" will look at proposed amendments to the legislation as it regards unrecognized tribes, cultural affiliation and the protection of documentation. The other panel, "Trafficking and Private Collections," will focus on legal constraints on trafficking and private collections, especially as they affect museums.

    McKeown, an official of the Archaeology and Ethnology Program of the National Park Service and team leader for national implementation of NAGPRA, will give a concluding keynote address at 3:30 p.m.