Should Archaeologists be able to study Native American remains?

Essay by sportysc5 November 2006

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Different types of media have been critical influences allowing me to a come to a clear understanding about how many Native American people are truly held imprisoned in our nations museums (such as the 18,000 in the Smithsonian alone), universities, and with private collectors. There is no doubt in my mind that archaeologists should only be able to study the remains of these native people with a tribe with cultural affiliation request that their family history be studied. However, I do not believe that oral tradition from one tribe or family alone suffices to claim the remains of their loved ones. I believe that there needs to be more support from other tribes or individuals that would substantiate such a request to claim such funerary objects and remains. As we are not talking about a single artifact we are referring to the remains of thousands of family members of Native Americans who have not been properly laid to rest.

I do feel that the NAGPRA; Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, does begin to do justice in order to help these people return to their home lands to rest in peace. It is bothersome to think that there are so many archeologists that want to take advantage of the Native American culture and believe that it is our governments decision weather it is alright to continue to run tests and harbor their bodies in thousands of historical intuitions. This is the beginning of a feud that I trust our government will continue to handle with care. It is disturbing that we have accepted and allowed the ancestors and in general relatives of our fellow Americans to be put on display and analyzed for scientific reasons unacceptable to their culture. There should be no difference in what the deceased's race, culture, ethnic background, genetics etc. one has, as it should be their choice and if not their choice the choice of their people to decide where their body resides after life so that they may have equal rights as anyone to rest in peace.

Considering Kennwick man or Luzia it is more difficult to say where they should be buried as it is more complicated in understanding what tribes they were affiliated with, if any. Should their bodies be auctioned off to the first tribe that claims to have an affiliation with them through oral tradition, continue to rest in our institutions', be donated to science for eternity or possibly for a short time be studied in attempt to discover where their ancestors origin lie to return them to their homeland? It seems like a simple question to some but people from different tribes, the scientific community and the public would not agree on an answer; though it seems obvious if we were talking about our own families or our wishes when we pass on. This is precisely the problem that will continue to haunt our nation's capital any and all objects are returned to their original land.