P200 Introduction to Prehistoric Archaeology
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Essay 4: Who owns the Past?
Due in class on April 10
In class we will watch a video portraying an important issue in American archaeology: the development of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and its impact on the future of how archaeologists need to work in a public arena. Different aspects of this issue, and the question of the ethical responsibility of archaeological researchers are also discussed in you Annual Editions Reader, chapters 11, 34 and 40. (In addition, there are South American examples we will look at later in the semester in chapters 38 and 39 that you may want to look at now).
This assignment option gives you the opportunity to dig into this current controversy in more depth. Three steps:
- Visit the following web sites to read more about the importance of NAGPRA from the different perspectives of scientists and Native Americans:
- Legal text and updates to NAGPRA sponsored by the National Archaeology Database
- American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation public education site
- Do some research to find a recent newspaper or magazine article describing a recent case of NAGPRA "in action". One example I recommend would be the Kennewick Man controversy, but you can use any one you want, as long as it relates to relatively current events.
- Note: In the Library you can search online databases that include the full text of newspaper articles, such as Lexus/Nexis. Ask a librarian to help you do a search on "Kennewick Man" for example.)
- For WWW research, even search for "NAGPRA" will generate a number of interesting, current discussions and links. Try NAGPRA On The Web. Here's a position paper for an archaeological congress last year discribing a protest against the Florida National museum.
- Here's a particularly interesting link for you interested in scientists' reactions to NAGPRA: http://www.bioanth.org/NAGPRA/default.htm
- WWW HINTS: Seattle Times has run recent stories on Kennewick controvery, or look for other leads from the WWW site "Anthropology in the News http://www.tamu.edu/anthropology/news.html
- Here's a good starting site for research on Kennewick Man: http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/kennewick/
- Write an essay of ~4 pages describing the circumstances of the particular case you have researched, and putting it in the context of the range of opinions and perspectives about NAGPRA that you have read about among scientists and different members of the American public, including Native Americans, government officials, etc..Your goal, in this essay, should be to clearly lay out the specific issues involved in your case study, in relation to the general issues of NAGPRA. Which issues do people agree on? Where do they disagree? Try to explain the rationale of each perspective. Attach copies of the web, newspaper or magazine articles that you base your essay on.
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Last updated: 27 March, 2000
Copyright Jeanne Sept 2000 : do not cite without permission