Dr. Joe Watkins, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is the American Indian Liaison Officer, Supervisory Cultural Anthropologists, and Chief of the Tribal Relations and American Cultures Program of the National Park Service in Washington DC. In addition, Dr. Hawkins is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, as well as a consultant for archaeological and cultural education consultants.
Prior to moving to the DC metro area, he was the director of the Native American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma from 2007 to 2013, and associate professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico from 2003 to 2007. In 2011, Dr. Watkins wrote, with his wife Carol Ellick who is in the audience tonight as well, The Anthropology Graduates Guide-- From Student to a Career, published by a Left Coast Press.
Watkins has been a member of the board of directors of the Society for American Archaeological and the Plains Anthropological Association, and has served on numerous committees of international, national, and regional anthropological organizations. He is widely published on topics related to the ethical practice of anthropology, and the study of anthropology's relationships with descendant communities and populations, including American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Mari, and the Japanese Ainu. I want to have everybody join me in welcoming Dr. Watkins, as he opens our museum door here, and brings us into his wonderful talk.
Good evening. I also want to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land where we are meeting this evening. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
Hark, listen to my words. I am Joe Watkins. I am Choctaw. On my father's side, I'm a member of the Watkins and Willis families. On my mother's side, I'm a member of the Hills and the Flowers families. Very, very pleased to be here, very proud to participate, and very honored to be a part of this evening's event.
In early 2000, I was invited here to present in a symposium. Before the meeting, I was walking across Cambridge Common trying to find my way to the Peabody Museum. I must have looked a little lost. I was, actually, and perhaps broke an unwritten rule by walking across the grass.
As I passed an elderly woman sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons, I heard her say, stupid foreigners-- not quite under her breath, but, you know, fairly much so. I slowed and turned, curious about whom she was speaking, and saw a look of distaste in her eyes that rocked me quite a bit. Only then did I realize that she was talking about me.
I stopped only for a moment, and then smiled at the irony of it all. My ancestors on my father's side have been on this continent for perhaps 15,000 years, give or take a few hundred, while hers, giving her the full benefit of the doubt considering her dress and appearance, 400 years at the most. Maybe I don't belong at Harvard. But who's the true foreigner?
I mention this because American Indians often feel that we are the foreigners in our own lands. When we come to foreign capitals like Boston, we feel disconnected, as if we are no longer welcome to fully participate in a world that was once ours. In many ways, we are still held captive in prisoner of war camps called museums and in existence deeply rooted in the past that has only recently changed.
Let's go back 150 years. In 1866, the United States was in the beginning stages of reconstruction, trying to piece together a struggling union, still reeling from the Civil War. On April 9th, 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to define citizenship and affirm that all citizens are equally protected under the law. On December 21st in 1866, in northern Wyoming, and slopping over into southern Montana, Lakota Chief Red Cloud defeated Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman and his soldiers, thereby initiating the Red Cloud War that extended until 1868.
In between these events, on October 8th of 1866, George Peabody committed funds to establish the Peabody Museum. We are here as part of the ongoing celebration of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Peabody Museum. This evening, I want to look at some of the ways that the focus of museums have changed from blindly collecting the artifacts of vanishing cultures that refuse to vanish, to the changing interactions between museums and the cultures that produce the artifacts in their collections.
At times, these changing interactions have caused uncertainty for museum professionals. But more and more museums are aware that co-curation, and the sharing of power between the institution and affiliated groups, have actually strengthened relationships and provided anthropological information that was not often shared. Museums are places with special collections of things are held for the benefit of all people.
Some museums maintain collections of fossils, rocks, minerals, and other things related to the natural world. Other museums maintain collections of everyday objects made by cultures across the globe. And still other museums maintain collections of art made by some of the greatest artists of all time.
Regardless of the subjects or the topics, museums exist as cultural institutions where the primary purpose is the collection, protection, and educational use of particular objects. Museums have had a special history of growth, tied in many ways to the cultures of which they are a part, as well as the societies in which they flourish. In Europe, for example, the age of exploration brought with it a growing number of encounters between Europeans and other cultures.
Returning explorers often brought back with him tales of culture so different that they were obliged to provide evidence of those cultures in the forms of souvenirs, drawings, and occasionally even representations of the people themselves. Mostly, these souvenirs were kept within the walls of royalty, palaces, and perhaps monasteries. But as society grew more open and democratic during the Industrial Revolution, these objects and the information about them became more accessible to the general population.
Private collections, cabinets of curiosities as they were, shifted from being privately held to being held under public or governmental control. Ultimately, these institutions became museums as we now know them today. Some of these royal collections were old, based on either tribute given to the kings, exotic islands collected from foreign expeditions, and other goods seized as a royal right.
When museums took on these royal collections, they also took on the responsibilities of maintaining them, providing education about them, protecting them, and classifying them into some sort of other for ease of exhibition. As a number of specimens grew, so did the scientific and the public interest. More and more museums became public institutions, and, as such, were expected to fulfill a role in the development of public education.
This form of public education involved more than providing learning or research opportunities in the traditional sense. It began setting the standard for what was considered normal, quote unquote, and what was not. The focus of museums' existence has gradually shifted from primarily serving the needs of the scientific community, who relied on museum collections for research, to the situation now, where most museums try to balance between meeting the needs of the researcher, while entertaining the general public with exotic things from other cultures, often presented as otherworldly.
To illustrate this, as a bit of contrast this evening, I'd like to briefly discuss the origin and the development of two separate facilities-- the Peabody Museum, as shown on your left, and the American Museum in New York City, not to be confused with the American Museum of Natural History. Both of these institutions have contributed to the development of museums in their own ways, even though the American Museum in New York City no longer exists. The Peabody Museum came into being, as I said, on October 8, 1866, when George Peabody, an American British financier often called the founder of modern philanthropy, committed $150,000 to establish the position of Peabody Professor/Curator to purchase artifacts, and to construct a building to house its collections.
In contrast the American Museum, established in 1841 in New York City, was bought and maintained by PT Barnum, a famous American entrepreneur and showman, solely as a business venture. The Peabody Museum began with, and continues to maintain, collections of rocks, bugs, dead animals, plants, and fossils, as well as pieces of art and artifacts created by modern cultures and long dead ones. Throughout its history, the museum has maintained an active program of research, public education, collection, and scientific publication.
By contrast, the American Museum of New York City, which burned to the ground in 1865 a year before this museum opened, maintained a collection of curiosities-- serpents, whales, elephants, hippos, wolves, and buffalo, as well as circus performers such as midgets, bearded ladies, tattooed men, jugglers, performing American Indians, and other attractions. Where George Peabody concerned himself with scholarship, PT Barnum chose razzle dazzle. Where Peabody was conservative, Barnum was flamboyant. Where the Peabody Museum operated under public and private funds, the American Museum operated on turning a profit from admission fees.
Now, these two museums offer a pointed example of one of the dilemmas that continues to confront museums today. Should museums be places of scientific research, or wildly popular public attractions? Should museums be educating or entertaining? Is it possible for a museum to be both at the same time? Or must the museum focus on attracting visitors, like Barnum, to the detriment of the researcher?
In 2001, previous director of the museum Ruby Watson, in her article on opening the museum, the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnography, wrote of this dilemma. Quote, museums are expected to combine education and entertainment, commemorate heroic deeds, document real history, give voice to the strivings of minorities, and provide a form in which new and sometimes unpopular ideas can be discussed. Museums have become places where national and regional cultures are celebrated, criticized, and on occasion refashioned. Many public museums offer a host of cultural and commercial services, including exhibits, films, shopping, restaurants, concerts, and even a safe place where urban singles can mix and match. All of this must be done with limited resources, making the pursuit of funds necessary and pervasive.
I was in Toronto two weeks ago now. And the Royal Ontario Museum have what they called Friday Night Live. Every week on Friday night, they open the museum up to these nice young people, who come in for a particular focus. When I was there, it was fashion.
You pay $10 for a ticket to get in. When I left about 9:00 o'clock, I'm still a little bit too old to be participating in such events, there were people lined up around the block to try to get in. These sorts of things, which opens the museum's exhibits up to people who normally wouldn't participate in such an active venue, contributes a great deal of the income to the museum.
And, yet, it keeps the museum from being a stale place of rarely changing exhibits that usually only people visit when they're in the fourth grade and going to see the dinosaurs. So, in many ways, this idea has truly reinvigorated the Royal Ontario Museum. And it's given it new life.
To some people, museums are nothing more than storage facilities that hold glass cases built to display artifacts of cultures long thought to be dead or dying. While, to others, they are cultural meccas, where the past comes alive on a daily basis through exhibits and careful presentation of beautiful objects. In the 1880s, museums generally displayed what were considered to be primitive cultures, including American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and South American tribes.
Mostly, these were displayed within a natural history context, as if the cultures were so much a part of the nature that they might be considered as specimens alongside other animals-- curiosities on a par with African elephants or Australian platypuses. I looked that up. And platypuses is the correct plural. I always thought it was platypusi, but no.
Over time, as researchers returned from the field work with more and more examples of objects made by these exotic cultures, more exhibits were needed to show off the materials produced by the cultures that were the research interests of the scientists or the explorer-- other worldly. Preparing exhibits requires scientific research, as well as an artistic touch. And the museum professionals who develop the exhibits are well-trained in the work they do.
However, as the exhibits take on a life of their own, the museum and the museum professional eventually become the self-appointed keepers of another culture, and the self-appointed interpreters of another culture's history. It is the exhibit that shapes the public perception about an object, and by extension the culture that produced that object. Surprisingly, too, the person who writes the text for the exhibit has the possibility of influencing more people than the actual cultural group that the display is about. In this matter, the museum becomes the expert. And the cultural glue becomes almost unnecessary.
If you were to describe American Indians based on your museum experiences, what comes to mind? In general, indigenous populations throughout the world have not been represented very fairly by museums. In the United States, for example, museums such as the Peabody, the Smithsonian Institution, the Chicago Field Museum, the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles, have not represented the cultures of American Indian tribes in the same manner that they have represented non-Indian cultures from the same time period of history.
Why is this? In the 1880s and the 1890s, it was the policy of the American government to force American Indians to assimilate, to take on the trappings of the American culture around them. William Henry Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, was a proponent of forced assimilation, having pronounced the need to kill the Indian, save the man.
A quick aside-- these are two photographs of the same individual, one when he first went to Carlisle Indian School. And the second one is a couple of years later. I have his name. I forgot to put it in here. His first name is Tom. I know that for sure.
Anthropologists and historians thought that if American Indians were destined to disappear, to become more like average Euro-Americans, then it was their duty to not only preserve the culture through field research and documentation, but also to collect and preserve the material culture, including the everyday objects that the Indians used. The Peabody joined the rest of the museum world in the late 1870s by going after the good stuff before it was all gone.
When American Indians view exhibits of American Indian cultures in museums, they see themselves represented as static, dead cultures that ceased to exist in the late 1800s, and can now only be found within the minds of anthropologists or within museum collections. Is it any wonder that for hundreds of years, American Indians have often seen museums as a sort of a mausoleum, a place where the dead are taken to be prodded, measured, displayed, labeled, and finally put away into storage never to be seen again? These dead may be humans, including human skeletal remains, bits and pieces of human such as scalps, or objects made dead by their removal from the culture that gave them life.
While the function of museums is to preserve specimens, they also function to display, and therefore influence, the public image of the community within which they are located. This is an exhibit in Asahikawa Museum, Japan, on the Ainu, the indigenous population of Hokkaido Island, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands on Hokkaido. While the function of museums is to preserve through specimens, they can also express the image of the community of which they are a part.
They can also influence that community's perception of other people by promoting and affirming the dominant values of their own community, or by subordinating or rejecting alternative views. This can also be done by presenting the other culture as primitive, savage, or warlike, or actually by refusing to portray a culture in a modern setting. In Japan, for example, the majority of the Japanese population does not realize that Ainu continue to exist as a separate population on Hokkaido. Again, they also picture the Ainu as gone, dead, assimilated. This representation of cultures, in conjunction with the interpretation of the material within a museum's collection, can contribute to the public's perception of cultures in a negative manner. And it is this role as producer of a public image that is one reason for American Indians' discontent with museums today.
Museum exhibits continue to contribute to the public's perception of American Indians. And many exhibits focus on particular aspects of tribal culture. The focus, either in the past or in the present, can depend upon the research orientation of the person who plans the exhibit, the materials within the collection, or perhaps an historical event or personage.
More commonly, American Indians are presented in the past, as a part of a local or regional history. This has two aspects. It continues to give the perception that Indians exist only in the past. And it allows the museum to control the history of the tribal culture, rather than allowing the tribe to control its own history.
Sharon McDonald neatly summarized the impact of this transformation in the introduction to her edited volume, The Politics of Display. Quote, what the museum offered was a site in which scientific findings were open to a general public, as well as to a community of scientists. Here, in the museum, anybody might come and survey the evidence of science.
Displays in the great natural and cultural history museums of the day involved thousands of specimens arranged according to principles based on, and allowing for, direct comparative observation. Many American Indian groups felt uncomfortable being the source or subject of other people's education. As noted before, while one of the primary roles of museums is educating the public, museums whose specialty is American Indian materials by nature of the fact of their collections, worked at educating people about what it is, or was, to be Indian. This, too, acted to set the museum up as the expert, and relegated living Indian people to a questionable role in teaching about their own culture.
But one of the first indications of change in the relationship between American Indians and museums began in 1970, coupled with the growing American Indian concerns and civil rights era of the late 1960s. This occurred when the Onondaga tribe began trying to regain wampum belts held within the New York State Museum. This is a picture of a wampum belt here in the collections. It's not the one that the Onondaga went after.
These belts were constructed to document historic periods, primarily treaties. And in many ways are as important to tribes-- they're items of cultural patrimony in much the same way as the Bill of Rights, Constitution, or original copies of treaties between nations. The tribal attempt to regain these sensitive cultural items was met with widespread comment, not only in local and national newspapers such as the Watertown, New York Daily Times, and Akwesasne Notes, a national American Indian newspaper, but also in scholarly journals, such as the American Anthropological I newsletter.
Anthropologists were on both sides of the issue, with some coming out in support of the return of the cultural items to the tribes, while others spoke out against such a return. The Onondagas were eventually able to retrieve their sacred wampum belts. But the battle over the control of the artifacts was more than just an attempt to regain a single item. American Indians were no longer content to allow museums to continue to determine what was to be displayed, how the material was to be interpreted, and the limits of Indian involvement in the entire preservation process.
Some museum professionals reacted to the repatriation of the material in shock. But others were much more in touch with the problems inherent in museums. In 1971, James Nason, then the curator of ethnology at the Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle, outlined three basic criticisms that he had heard American Indian groups make against museums.
One, that some or all of the materials within museums were collected in the past by either immoral or illicit means. Two, that collections were developed to satisfy materialistic greed or cultural imperialism. And three, that museums seek to maintain collections in such a way that Indians are excluded from any contact with, or relationship with, their material culture.
But not all American Indians were content to quietly wait for museums to return items of importance to the tribes, or to change the patterns of exhibit Indian culture. In late December of 1970 and January of 1971, museums of different American Indian tribes protested at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles over the display of American Indian human skeletal remains, and the exhibit of what were considered sacred islands.
Many of the Indian protesters were arrested. But their protests proved a point. Eventually in 1971, the American Association of Museums, now the American Alliance of Museums, the national organization, made it a point of its code of ethics that no human remains should be exhibited within any of its member museums without a specific, compelling reason to do so. Recently, in 2014, Andromache Gazi provided an overview of major issues of exhibition ethics, including discussion of the exhibition of human remains and sacred objects.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, discussion between museum professionals and tribes continued, encouraged by federal legislation such as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. AIRFA, as it has been called, required federal agencies to re-examine any of their policies that might prevent American Indians from exercising their religious freedom. 10 consultations held across the United States identified recurring themes, such as human remains in museum collections, access to sacred sites and sacred objects, and the ability to transport feathers across international borders. One of the early turning points in the shifting relationships between museums and American Indian tribes grew out of the passage of this law, and the consultations held across the United States.
The Zuni tribe in 1978 began trying to regain control of some sacred objects that were being held in museums. These objects called [NON-ENGLISH], or commonly known as war gods, had been taken from their locations in the 1890s, 1900s. A 1993 article by William Merrill, who was a curator at the Smithsonian, Edmund Lad, who was a Zuni ethnographer-- actually he was an ethnographer who was Zuni-- and TJ Ferguson, who was at that time director of the Zuni archaeological program-- details the nine year long process that the Zuni Pueblo went through to regain these objects from the Smithsonian.
The [NON-ENGLISH] served as protectors of the Zuni people. They also have an influence over weather and prosperity, and function as patrons of gaming and sports. New gods are made every year and placed at a particular locations around the boundaries of the reservation.
The process of gaining back these objects began, as I said, in 1978, and was met with questions and concerns similar to those asked of the Onondaga previously. The Smithsonian was reluctant to return these items within question, stating that they had acquired the items legally. They were concerned about violating the trust responsibility that museums have for protecting and maintaining their collections, and that they were afraid that they'd be setting precedents which might be threatening their collections as a whole.
They also decided they did not want to turn over any collections without the assurances that the collections would be afforded the care and security required by a modern museum. Ultimately, following negotiations and Zuni successes in obtaining other examples from other museums, the Smithsonian and the Zuni were able to complete the transfer the objects. But the transfers hinged on the relationships formed between the tribe and the museum professionals.
While there were certainly other repatriations, this was one of the first and one of the most well-documented examples. This set the stage for continued discussions between museums and American Indians. And with the passage of repatriation legislation in 1989 and 1990, relationships between museums and American Indians permanently shifted.
The Native American Graves Protection Repatriation Act of 1990, NAGPRA, requires that museums examine their collections for particular classes of material-- human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. They were also required to notify the tribes which might be associated with these materials of the items within their collections. The processes established by law for the return of these materials required that the museums consult with the tribes about the collections.
These consultations created the opportunity for sometimes difficult conversations. I'm not going to go into any detail about NAGPRA. But the law and implementing regulations created timelines for museums to determine which materials within their collections met the definitions covered by the law, and also establish procedures whereby the museums would notify the tribes who might be associated with the material.
For some of those involved, these conversations were painful reminders of the methods whereby many items that resided in museums were acquired. Samuel Redman in his book Bone Rooms, from scientific racism to human prehistory museums, documents some of the inappropriate ways the materials were collected, including the removal of skeletal remains and associated items buried with the body from fresh Indian graves, as well as the collection of skulls and objects from battlefields between the cavalry and American Indians in the 1840s and '50s.
Some items were purchased from unscrupulous people who might have stolen them. Other artifacts were collected directly from Indians who were coerced into giving them up by anthropologists who thought it was more important to have the object than to worry about the morality involved in the methods used to get them. In spite of these painful reminders, these conversations have often led to new relationships that physically and metaphorically opened the museum's collections to others.
Urged on by NAGPRA and guided by the inventory and summaries the museums provided about their collection, native groups visited the museums not only to acquaint themselves with the materials, but also to reacquaint themselves with objects long separated from the cultures that produced them. One such example happened here at the Peabody when, in 2003, tribal members Fin Hawkinson of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository and Ronnie Lind, and Alutiiq elder, recognized a watercraft in the rafters of the Peabody Museum as the only remaining warrior kayak of their culture.
In February 2011, with funding from the Save America's Treasures Program, the Peabody and Alutiiq museums worked on more than 100 Alutiiq items in the Peabody collections, including four kayaks, several model kayaks, kayaking accessories, skin constructed collections, and related media. Each item is among the oldest and rarest of its type in existence.
The kayaks are not simply the oldest and rarest. They are also ethnographic treasures from one of the United States least known native peoples. The kayak and the related objects evoke an era of complex, ocean-going travel, trade, and warfare among Alaska native cultures.
As Fin Hawkinson, executive director of the Alutiiq Museum at the time, noted, the knowledge we gain from this exchange will not only help the Alutiiq people learn, but allow us to share and maintain a disappearing tradition of kayaking on Kodiak Island. Influenced by this sort of encounter, Peabody curators Patricia Capone and Diana Lauren detailed the museum's approach to the care and treatment of sensitive collections in their 2004 article Stewardship of Sensitive Collections, Policies, Procedures, and the Process of Their Development at the Peabody Museum. The article itself describes specific policies and procedures that draw from the Peabody's mission and the spirit of NAGPRA to emphasize cooperation and collaboration, rather than exclusion. Additionally, museum visitors are treated with a panel to talk about the museum's approach to working with community members, as well as the influence of NAGPRA on how the museum views its collection, and how the museum has opened up its collections and the institution to natives.
Another example of the way that museums and community members have created new ways of using collections occurred in November of 2009. Inuvialuit elders, youth, and cultural workers of northern Canada traveled to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, where they were able to gain information on invaluable artifacts within the Smithsonian's MacFarlane collection. Community members were able to view and examine materials collected by a Hudson's Bay trader, who assembled the objects within the collection, which includes nearly 5,000 natural history specimens, such as birds' eggs, and animals skeletons, and an additional 300 cultural objects obtained from the Inuvialuit, excuse me, people of the Anderson River region in the 1860s.
Following the visit, the Inuvialuit developed an interactive website about the collection, building on the digital collections provided by the National Museum of Natural History and the reciprocal research network of the Northwest coast. The joint team collaboratively wrote, revised, or corrected item records, and then re-organized them by tagging according to the categories such as type-- that is footwear, clothing, art, ads, bow, et cetera. Theme-- sea mammal, hunting, dancing, transportation, as well as materials, manufacturing techniques, and native terms in the native dialect. Connecting the MacFarlane Collection with the elders, youth, and cultural workers at the Smithsonian helped the MacFarlane Collection become a living collection once again through its reconnection with the Inuvialuit culture.
There are many more examples of the range of interactions between museum professionals and tribal members from throughout the United States. Occasionally, conflict occurs, especially as objects pivotal to a museum's collection come under consideration for repatriation. The University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Museum, for example, has chosen to retain objects from the spiral mounds of Oklahoma that meet the definition of funerary objects under NAGPRA.
This pipe, called the Lucifer pipe, was one of many pipes collected in the 1930s, when people went in and mined the spiral mounds in eastern Oklahoma. Some of the material is in Oklahoma still. Some of it is as far away as Japan, the Smithsonian. Many of the major museums have materials from the spiral collections, sending collectors there immediately to get them to buy them as they came out of the ground.
The material is staying in the museum collections until such time as the Wichita and affiliated tribes of Oklahoma, and the Caddo nation of Oklahoma decide between themselves which group is more affiliated to the archaeological culture that created these objects. The Wichita has determined that, since these are funerary objects, if they get them back, they will re-bury them, because they say that these objects have so much power that no one really should view them, unless they have a particular status or standing.
The Caddo tribe of Oklahoma, on the other hand, recognizes that these objects provide such a wonderful exhibition of the technology that their ancestors had that they believed that these objects should be displayed as objects of cultural patrimony, to allow the youth to recognize how great their cultures have always been for the last 500, 600, 700 years. So the direct conflict between the two tribes has allowed the museum to maintain these collections. We are hoping one day soon that a decision-- that the tribes will negotiate, and a decision will be made.
As conversations such as these have expanded to include more and more people, and as tribal knowledge keepers gain more trust of museum professionals, museums have learned more than ever about the cultures and the materials held within their collections. Tribal knowledge elders provide information that help museums become better stewards of the materials under their care. And sacred objects that were being held captive are allowed to breathe again, as tribes provide information on procedures to take better care of them, and as museums modify their procedures for examining, working with, and caring for their collections.
These conversations have fundamentally changed the ways that American museums and American Indians interact. Many museums now follow tribal guidance in the treatment of particular materials in their care. Some tribes determine when certain objects should be seen based on traditions. Others have restriction restrictions on the gender or age of people who are allowed to handle or view items.
One example given by the Peabody Museum on its website in relation to pipes is informative. Quote, increased consultation with native groups has brought about many changes to the Peabody's operations over the past 10 years, including how we store and exhibit Native American objects. Many Native American groups believe that attaching the pipe bowl to the pipe stem enlivens, or activates, the pipe's power. The museum now takes care to store and display these items separately, end quote.
Things have changed since the formation of many of America's great museums. In 1866, when the Peabody Museum here at Harvard was established, America was still at war with its original inhabitants. 10 years later, in 1876, Lieutenant General George Armstrong Custer met the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes at the Battle of Greasy Grass, known commonly as Little Bighorn.
In 1886, the last American Indian warrior, Geronimo, surrendered to the army in Arizona. Four years later, in 1890, less than one year before the Peabody Museum celebrated its 25th anniversary, an event occurred that has been called the last great battle, quote unquote, of the American Indian wars on the frozen fields of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, when US army troops, armed with Hotchkiss guns, opened fire on a group of Indians, killing between 100 and 300 men, women, and children.
100 Years later, in 1990, the relationships between the museums and the people it collected changed forever. NAGPRA legislated consultation and communication. But the museums and the tribes found ways to compromise and work together. Every museum has examples of good and bad situations that they have experienced in working with tribes.
But the relationships developed in the discussions continue to revolve around human, face to face interactions. These collaboration make the amount of information available to anthropologists, museum professionals, tribal members, and tribal knowledge carriers much more significant, and bring new life to islands collected more than 150 years ago. At this point, I guess the question is, what are the relationships going to be like, and what are museums going to be like, 150 years from now? Thank you.