Why It's So Complicated To Return Human Remains
Since 1990, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has been working to repatriate more than 700 human remains and funerary objects from Indigenous Peoples, but so far, only 104 have been made available for return. City Cast’s Elizabeth Kauma explains why it’s taking the museum so long — and how they got them all in the first place.
Special thanks to Amy Covell-Murthy, collection manager of archaeology and head of the section of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Carrie Wilson, NAGPRA Director for the Quapaw Tribe, for speaking to City Cast Pittsburgh.
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- The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act is carried out by the National Park Service.
- The original law as passed in 1990 only allowed for affiliations to be made by lineal descendent, but the 2010 addition allows for affiliations to be made by geographical connection.
- There is currently a proposed change that would place time limits on museums to affiliate remains as a way to prevent the research loophole that allows for destructive research on the remains.
- That proposal has been lauded by some, Carrie was very critical of the new regulations and said that these time limits could lead to rushed, and possibly false, affiliations and were an example of the federal government ignoring native sovereignty.
- Carrie was also critical of the ProPublica article and database, because she thinks they gloss over the hard work that institutions and Native tribes and nations have done to repatriate remains and paints institutions as the villain with too broad of a brush.
- The Carnegie Museum of Natural History also released a notice with more details about how the Quapaw remains ended up in the museum’s collection.
- You can visit the native-led exhibition “Apsáalooke Women and Warriors“ at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History until May 29th.
- And here’s our last episode on the Carnegie’s Museum of Natural History’s use of human remains in a diorama. diorama “Lion Attacking a Dromedary.”
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