|This photo was taken at Dr. Smith's lecture. She was an engaging speaker and delivered some very interesting information.|
Friday, July 28, 2017
Another eye opening lecture
Hello, my name is Kaylee Hagemann and I am a junior at Western Michigan University attending the field school this summer. I am enjoying my time here so far and decided to focus on our most recent lecture for my first blog.
Archaeologists are required to follow many guidelines when it comes to studying artifacts and human remains. Rules exist in order to not disturb human burials that would disrespect the community that the remains are affiliated with. There is an act called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) which covers some of these guidelines. According to the website nps.gov/nagpra, this was enacted on November 16th, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Before this act was created, some Native American gravesites were excavated and the material and human remains were kept for research and display at museums. This was done with or without the permission of the tribe these remains were related to. Tribal Communities took a stand against this because it was discourteous and against everything they believed in. Many controversial court cases occurred, and it took a long time but NAGPRA was finally enacted. After NAGPRA was created, museums returned many Native American remains and grave goods.
This past Wednesday, Dr. Beverley Smith was the speaker for our lecture series and she spoke of the ways in which NAGPRA affected her work at an archaeological site in Flint, MI. In 2008, a crew of construction workers dug a square hole in a neighborhood to construct a basement before a house was built above it. While they were digging out all of the dirt, there were human remains being taken out and thrown on the ground surface and into the street. People found out about this and put a stop to the construction. The Saginaw and Chippewa Tribes had documentation to prove that those human remains were their ancestors. So, Dr. Smith, who studies Anthropology and Biology, was called to help research and repatriate the site. She came down and had a crew of volunteers, including some representatives of Tribal communities that helped research the human remains and rebury them.
Dr. Smith, the Saginaw, and Chippewa Tribal communities made agreements that placed reasonable limits on how the remains were handled. After the research process was over in the area that was excavated, Dr. Smith explained that there was a ceremony with the reburial. All the remains were reburied in special wood coffins with red cloth wrapped around them. The Tribal members and others present passed around a smoking pipe to celebrate peace between them and a prayer was spoken in Anishinabe (with an English translator present). After the reburial ceremony was over, there was a feast for everyone involved in the site. Dr. Smith spoke of how the excavation and reburial ceremony was so meaningful and enjoyable for her, she would do it again.