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Archeology for Interpreters > 7. What Are the Issues of Sensitivity?

Native American cultural traditions

[photo] Native American girl in dance costume.

Nez Pierce tribal traditions are preserved at Montana's Big Hole National Battlefield.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) formally affirms the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to custody of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. In enacting this legislation, Congress and the President acknowledged that over the course of the nation's history, Native American human remains and funerary objects have suffered from differential treatment as compared with the human remains and funerary objects of other groups. They also acknowledged that the loss of sacred objects by Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations has negatively impacted Native American religious practices. They further acknowledged the failure of American law to recognize concepts of communal property that were traditionally and still are in use by some Indian tribes.

For your information

NAGPRA
The NPS NAGPRA web page.

Fun fact

At Wyoming's Devils Tower National Monument at least six tribes still perform traditional ceremonial activities that demonstrate the sacred nature of the site. These activities include prayer offerings (bundles and cloths), sweatlodge ceremonies, vision quests, and Sun Dances.

Case studies

Kennewick Man
Find resources on the human skeletal remains of “Kennewick Man”, found in 1996 and claimed by Indian tribes, local officials, and some members of the scientific community.

Native Americans at Mojave National Preserve
Read about how local tribes were contacted and given the opportunity to present their own story.

TSM/MJB