The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is shutting down museums and Indigenous history exhibits to restore and protect Indigenous culture.
Indigenous history is an important part of the history of the U.S., for it shows how the nation was developed. The destruction of many tribal nations and cultural traditions and the slow colonization of the land remains to this day one of the greatest genocides in the world. As a result, countless cultural artifacts were taken from their respective tribes.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has aimed to enforce cultural preservation and reunification since its first enactment in 1990. It began the process of returning cultural artifacts to their rightful place but has been done slowly. Publishing this act was a major step toward restoring and protecting Indigenous culture. However, this process has yet to actually begin. Biden’s executive order will set in place a system for returning remains and artifacts.
With the enactment of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the New York City Natural History Museum and others have had to close their displays involving Indigenous artifacts. They will not reopen until tribal nations review and approve the artifacts to be displayed.
While many Indigenous people and allies have supported and pushed for these artifacts to be returned to make amends, others believe that it’s important for U.S. citizens to be able to learn about Indigenous culture and history. While I agree that it’s important to learn about Indigenous history, I do think that how these artifacts are acquired needs to be addressed and permission needs to be granted. Without this, we are disregarding the unethical methods of how museums obtain their artifacts.
This effort to make a plan for how this act will be enforced is somewhat reassuring and I’m hopeful that this is a new era for Indigenous people. If you would like to read more here is a link to the government’s official explanation: FACT SHEET: Biden-?Harris Administration Announces New Actions and Historic Progress Supporting Tribal Nations and Native Communities Ahead of Third Annual White?House Tribal Nations?Summit