Friday, July 22, 2011

Contesting Scientists' Narrations of NAGPRA's Legislative History

Clayton W. Dumont, Jr., "Contesting Scientists' Narrations of NAGPRA's Legislative History: Rule 10.11 and the Recovery of "Culturally Unidentifiable" Ancestors"

May 14, 2010, marked a significant victory in the centuries-long struggle of Native peoples to protect our dead and their funerary objects from the "collecting" of generations of scientists. Nearly twenty years after being mandated by the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the final rule implementing and governing the "Disposition of Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains" was established.

Although far from perfect, the final rule codified in section 10.11 requires federally funded institutions, which together continue to hold approximately 120,000 deceased Native Americans, to "initiate consultation" for the purpose of producing an "offer to transfer control of the human remains to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations." These museums and agencies have ninety days to respond to tribes and Hawaiian organizations requesting consultation. Should they receive no requests, the museums, universities, and agencies "must initiate consultation" with tribes and Hawaiian organizations from whose tribal and aboriginal lands the bodies and funerary objects were removed. The new rule leaves little doubt that the National NAGPRA Program and the secretary of the interior view the purpose of the NAGPRA legislation as the return of Native dead to Native peoples.

Given that these deceased relatives, designated by scientists and museum officials as "culturally unidentifiable," total approximately three times the number of ancestors that they have returned, or agreed to return, to their closest living descendants thus far, it is not surprising that many prominent archaeologists, physical anthropologists, and museum personnel vehemently oppose the new rule. Indeed, the leaderships of their largest professional organizations have published scathing denouncements of section 10.11....

Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity

Check Out American Indian Studies, Associate Professor Joanne Barker's new book, Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity, Duke University Press, August 2011.
  • Description

    In the United States, Native peoples must be able to demonstrably look and act like the Natives of U.S. national narrations in order to secure their legal rights and standing as Natives. How they choose to navigate these demands and the implications of their choices for Native social formations are the focus of this powerful critique. Joanne Barker contends that the concepts and assumptions of cultural authenticity within Native communities potentially reproduce the very social inequalities and injustices of racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, and fundamentalism that define U.S. nationalism and, by extension, Native oppression. She argues that until the hold of these ideologies is genuinely disrupted by Native peoples, the important projects for decolonization and self-determination defining Native movements and cultural revitalization efforts are impossible. These projects fail precisely by reinscribing notions of authenticity that are defined in U.S. nationalism to uphold relations of domination between the United States and Native peoples, as well as within Native social and interpersonal relations. Native Acts is a passionate call for Native peoples to decolonize their own concepts and projects of self-determination.
  • Reviews

    Native Acts is a brave, engaging, and important book. Joanne Barker gracefully and confidently tackles some of the thorniest issues in Indian Country, from the political and moral consequences of claiming Native authenticity to same-sex marriage, disenrollment, Christian conservatism, and conflicts within and between tribal nations. This is one of the most sensitive, lively, and theoretically sophisticated treatments of the critical questions of authenticity, law, and social formation in all of Native American studies.”—Jessica R. Cattelino, author of High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty

    Native Acts is a significant work with broad appeal across many fields of study with its interdisciplinary approach to legal issues of the politics of recognition, membership, and tradition. The focus on contested histories, notions of cultural authenticity, and battles over legal legitimacy is accomplished with incisive critical analysis and sophisticated theorization. Joanne Barker provides a much needed investigation into race, gender, and sexual politics as they intersect and inflect indigeneity and governance with regard to questions of belonging and exclusion.”—J. KÄ“haulani Kauanui, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity.

Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future

Check out American Indian Studies, Associate Professor Melissa Nelson's book, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future (2008).

Indigenous leaders and other visionaries suggest solutions to today’s global crisis.
• Original Instructions are ancient ways of living from the heart of humanity within the heart of nature.
• Explores the convergence of indigenous and contemporary science and the re-indigenization of the world’s peoples.
• Includes authoritative indigenous voices, including John Mohawk and Winona LaDuke
For millennia the world’s indigenous peoples have acted as guardians of the web of life for the next seven generations. They’ve successfully managed complex reciprocal relationships between biological and cultural diversity. Awareness of indigenous knowledge is reemerging at the eleventh hour to help avert global ecological and social collapse. Indigenous cultural wisdom shows us how to live in peace--with the earth and one another.
Original Instructions evokes the rich indigenous storytelling tradition in this collection of presentations gathered from the annual Bioneers conference. It depicts how the world’s native leaders and scholars are safeguarding the original instructions, reminding us about gratitude, kinship, and a reverence for community and creation. Included are more than 20 contemporary indigenous leaders--such as Chief Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Winona LaDuke, and John Trudell. These beautiful, wise voices remind us where hope lies

Praise for Original Instructions
“Buckminster Fuller once complained that the earth had come without a good operating manual. In fact, though, there are an awful lot of instructions that have stood the test of time. Since we’re clearly making a mess of things at the moment, it might be wise to pay some attention.”
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and the forthcoming The Bill McKibben Reader

Original Instructions shows how human beings can actually play a richly positive role in the web of life as a keystone species that creates conditions conducive to life for all beings. Here is the sacred geography of a world where all life is revered and animated by spirit.”
Kenny Ausubel, author of When Healing Becomes a Crime and coexecutive director of Bioneers

"These indigenous activists have much to share, and they serve as crucial voices in the worldwide effort to restore our ailing planet."
Deborah Donovan, Booklist, Feb 2008

“Melissa Nelson, in collaboration with Bioneers, has produced an invaluable resource of Indigenous wisdom. This book is a must-read for every socially conscious political leader, member of the clergy, educator, activist, community worker, and entrepreneur interested in participating in the creation of a new and more ecologically sound worldview, one that will be capable of sustaining society in an era of significant global climate change.”
Gregory Cajete, founding director of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and associate professor of education at the University of New Mexico

" . . . a remarkable reminder that there are people out there doing critical work to safeguard our very existence. This book contains detailed information about the current programs and teachings from some of the best minds on the subject."
Kathryn Price, book editor, WomensRadio

" . . . will appeal both to New Age and Native American collections . . . an eye-opening survey of sacred geography and a spirit-driven world."
The Midwest Book Review, Apr 08

" . . . this book presents 'How To' earth wisdom that should be at the forefront of global efforts to restore the planet."
Griselda Steiner, Scene4 Magazine, Mar 08

" . . . cogent advice on how people in the world's old growth indigenous societies conduct their relations with each other and the Earth--are couched here in starkly modern terms as questions of sustainability become global fare. . . . The subject matter of this book is eclectic, ranging from toxic chemicals to global warming, changing roles of women, revival of Native languages, "bio-justice", "bio-ethics", and "bio-democracy".
B.E. Johansen
, CHOICE/Current reviews for Academic Libraries, Vol. 46, No. 5, Jan 2009

"The general themes running through the writings . . . are all very applicable to current problems, and thought provoking. The book has a wealth of information, and many resources for further research and study."
D. Tigermoon, The Pagan Review, May 2009

"I highly recommend this book. It's the dawning of an era and we must do our part to ensure a positive future for our children."
Vesta Elliott, Alaska Wellness, Nov/Dec 2009

IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas at the NMAI

Robert Keith Collins is co-curator of the IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Within the fabric of American identity is woven a story that has long been invisible—the lives and experiences of people who share African American and Native American ancestry. African and Native peoples came together in the Americas. Over centuries, African Americans and Native Americans created shared histories, communities, families, and ways of life. Prejudice, laws, and twists of history have often divided them from others, yet African-Native American people were united in the struggle against slavery and dispossession, and then for self-determination and freedom. For African-Native Americans, their double heritage is truly indivisible.
The exhibition IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas is a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Service (SITES).