Anderson: Now the left is erasing Native American history


Native American artifacts
Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the American Museum of Natural History in New York closed two major Native American exhibits to the public in its latest attempt to comply with the White House’s obligation to repatriate Native American objects. The requirement to return cultural items to Native American tribes was established decades ago but received a boost from President Joe Biden.

Tribes have long argued that museums and other institutions have been hesitant to comply with the repatriation law. Now many celebrate the removal of their history from institutions of learning in the name of cultural healing.

But what price must society and, perhaps more importantly, the tribes affected by this action, pay?

More harm than good

Last Friday, the famous American Museum of Natural History in New York closed two exhibits on Native Americans.

Museum President Sean Decatur said:

“The rooms we are closing are artifacts of a time when museums like ours did not respect the values, perspectives and shared humanity of Indigenous peoples.”

The New York museum’s action follows the Biden administration’s demand that museums and universities repatriate human remains and cultural objects associated with Native American tribes within the next five years. The requirement stems from the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act or NAGPRA of 1990, which required the same.

So why has it taken museums and other institutions so long to repatriate such objects? Many argue that the lack of historically verifiable documentation within the Native American community to demonstrate ownership of such objects has made it difficult for museums and universities to ensure the proper repatriation of remains and objects.

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However, thanks to the Biden administration, curators are now required to:

“…defer to traditional Native American knowledge of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

Essentially, in the frequent case where documentary evidence is not available, curators must trust the word of tribal leaders when returning the objects. Not only is this unscientific, but it opens the door to all kinds of mishaps, including inaccurate repatriations, tribal squabbles over said items, and worst of all… the loss of these historic items forever.

It’s not just about bones

As usual, the government tends to make almost every situation worse. San Jose State anthropology professor Elizabeth Weiss has warned about this from the beginning.

Professor Weiss wrote to The Political Insider:

“I predicted that the new NAGPRA regulations would bury our ability to conduct objective scientific investigations, hide our discoveries about the past, and ruin biological anthropology.”

Professor Weiss goes on to explain the deeper implications of NAGPRA regulations outside of science:

“However, the new regulations will not only impact science and natural history museums: the new targets include art purchased by contemporary Native American artists. At a recent NAGPRA information session on the new regulations, curators were told to consult with tribes about displaying modern art created by Native American artists that had recently been purchased by museums.

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The professor isn’t wrong, as evidenced by the Cleveland Museum of Art covering Native American pieces under the name NAGPRA. Other items will also be removed from other museums, including Native American musical instruments from New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lost forever

What happens to the history, forensic science studies, and cultural appreciation of these tribes when these objects are removed from exhibits and institutions of higher education? What happens to that culture if there are no elements for scientists to study and cultural pieces for society to admire?

While they claim to honor the cultures of these tribes, society is enabling the erasure of their existence, robbing them of their historical voice and place in humanity’s grand timeline. The progressive virus of the awakened mind is not only a danger to education, science and culture, but also to those they claim to fight for.

The best way to preserve the culture of “marginalized” groups is not to remove their history from museums and universities, but to show more of it. The world and societies become richer and stronger by studying those who came before them, not by burying them or hiding them from view.

If we are not careful, only the sacred oral stories of tribal communities will survive and, with the passage of each new generation, they risk disappearing like a whisper in the wind of time.

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Retired USAF, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran supporter. Hot mom with two monsters and equal parts wife… More about Kathleen J. Anderson


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