In honor of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the American Studies Program sponsored an event titled "Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments," held March 26 in Russell House. The event was held to raise awareness of critical issues regarding NAGPRA compliance in the context of both Wesleyan as an institution of higher learning that is subject to the federal law, and the particular challenges of repatriation in the southern New England region.
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American studies, associate professor of anthropology, introduced the panel discussion. She helped co-found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association in 2008, and hosts a public affairs radio show on WESU, "Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond."
Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, and assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, introduced the panel of speakers. Croucher's research draws on social theory within archaeology, particularly the way in which material culture interacts with individual and group identity.
Trudie Lamb Richmond, (Schaghticoke) is director of Public Programs at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, and a representative on the Connecticut State Native American Heritage Advisory Council who has provided guidance and made recommendations on Native American heritage to both the Office of the State Archaeologist and the Commission regarding Native American burials and sacred sites.
Abigail Clouse, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Wesleyan’s Center for the Americas, is the author of book-in-progress, 'Salvaging Anthropology: Repatriation and the Legacy of Nineteenth-Century Collecting.' She has worked at the Department of Anthropology’s Repatriation Office at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution).
Guest speaker Kevin McBride takes notes during the conference. He is director of research for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, who has developed field study programs on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation, and directs in all ongoing archaeological excavations and ethnohistorical research for the tribe.
Guest speaker Marge Bruchac (Abenaki) is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, who served as the research liaison for the Five College Repatriation Committee.
NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items -- human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony -- to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. At the end of the conference, Don Moon, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha professor in the College of Social Studies, dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs and professor of government, announced that Wesleyan's administration is committed to funding a NAGPRA officer to visit Wesleyan. The officer will conduct NAGPRA training for interested faculty and staff. The university also will hire a professional consultant to assess Wesleyan's collection and estimate what it would take to embark on consultation with the tribal nations, communities, and descendants, so Wesleyan can complete its inventory, and submit to the national NAGPRA office in Washington DC, which was required by federal law in 1995. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)