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Monday, February 5, 2024

Caught Red-Handed #Looters #Murder #NAGPRA (updated!)

By Trace Hentz, blog editor

In the new book ALMOST Dead Indians, the expectation of dead Indians is pretty evident: after first contact: 1,000+ massacres, slavery, plagues they spread via blankets, rotten food commodities, poisons that killed entire tribal communities, numerous scalp bounties, then the Lake Mohonk rich men like General Pratt suggesting all kids attend residential boarding schools (Carlisle Indian Industrial School) - these ideas were the best way to assimilate and KILL THE INDIAN and SAVE THE MAN... it's all there... we have proof.

But looting graves and theft was yet another way to kill the Indian, to hide what they did: plus they'd make money, get a college degree from somewhere, while they leveled and robbed thousands of mounds (and tribal massacre sites) that held our dead and our sacred items.  See a pattern here?

It was expected we would all die... sooner than later... one way or the other.

Looting is proof.  Our bones in museum collections is more proof. These museums and the looters got caught red-handed.  Now they will pay for this atrocity.  We are exposing them.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chair Schatz Demands Institutions to Return Native Remains and Items to Tribes  

For centuries, Native people had everything stolen from them – their lands, their water, their languages, and even their children. It wasn’t that long ago that it was the official policy of the United States government to terminate the existence of tribes and forcibly assimilate their citizens. And a big part of that unrelenting, inhumane policy was that the remains of Native ancestors and culturally significant items were also taken from them. Not with permission, but by force. Not discovered, but stolen. On battlefields and in cemeteries, under the cover of darkness or the guise of academic research.

Think about that. The U.S. government literally stole people’s bones. Soldiers and agents overturned graves and took whatever they could find. And these weren’t isolated incidents – they happened all across the country. In my home state of Hawai‘i, the remains of Native Hawaiians – or iwi kūpuna as they’re called – were routinely pillaged without any regard for the sanctity of the burials or Native Hawaiian culture. 

And all of it was brought to some of the most venerable institutions – at home and abroad -- to be studied like biological specimens…displayed in museum exhibits as if they’re paintings on loan…or squirreled away in a professor’s office closet, never to be seen again.

The theft of hundreds of thousands of remains and items over generations was unconscionable in and of itself. But the legacy of that cruelty continues to this day because these museums and universities continue to hold onto these sacred items in violation of everything that is right and moral – and importantly, in violation of federal law.

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Why are museums taking down Native exhibitions?

New language in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is prompting museums to pull some Native items from public display. The rule went into effect in January that requires museums to consult with tribes more comprehensively when it comes to Native artifacts. That’s because, even though they may not be the human remains or sacred items that NAGPRA historically referenced, many items held by museums, universities, and other institutions could have been looted from Native sites or otherwise taken under suspicious circumstances.






Return the Stolen Artifact, But Keep the Museum Label

Some museums have chosen to explain the removals they had made for reasons including not wanting to display racial stereotypes, reconsidering “whose perspectives receive prominence in our collections,” and discovering that an object was created by someone pretending to represent a cultural tradition. I have also seen signs in the Denver Museum of Nature and Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) explaining that an empty slot in a case was once filled with an artifact restored to a Native American community



During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered more than 800 antiquities stolen from 24 countries and valued at more than $155 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered nearly 4,500 antiquities stolen from 29 countries and valued at more than $375 million.

Under District Attorney Bragg, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU) has repatriated more than 950 antiquities stolen from 19 countries and valued at more than $165 million. Since its creation, the ATU has returned more than 2,450 antiquities to 24 countries and valued at more than $230 million.  


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