Bones of Contention

14 Dec 2010 7:17 AM | Anonymous
Op-Ed Contributor

Bones of Contention

Laramie, Wyo.

LAST winter, the Department of the Interior issued regulations for the disposition of ancient American Indian remains and funerary objects that cannot be affiliated with modern tribes. Unfortunately, these new rules will destroy a crucial source of knowledge about North American history and halt a dialogue between scientists and Indian tribes that has been harmonious and enlightening.

The new regulations help carry out the 20-year-old Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a law that was devised by tribes, scientists and museum officials. It was a compromise between the tribes’ sensitivity to having the remains of their ancestors excavated and analyzed and the archaeologists’ desire to learn what bones can reveal about ancient peoples’ diet, health, migration patterns, marriage practices and so on.

Scientists acknowledged that it is wrong to study the dead in ways that insult the living. Therefore, they relinquished control over the 25 percent of all catalogued remains at museums and other institutions that could be culturally affiliated with federally recognized tribes. Some tribes have reburied these remains, others have stored them, and some have asked institutions to continue to hold them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/opinion/13kelly.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

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