Drawing Back Culture
The Makah Struggle for Repatriation
- PUBLISHED: April 2002
- SUBJECT LISTING: Anthropology, Native American and Indigenous Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 208 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 61 illus.
- ISBN: 9780295981956
The Makah Indians of Washington State--briefly in the national spotlight when they resumed their ancient whaling traditions in 1999--have begun a process that will eventually lead to the repatriation of objects held by museums and federal agencies nationwide. Drawing Back Culture describes the early stages of the tribe’s implementation of what some consider to be the most important piece of cultural policy legislation in the history of the United States: the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
NAGPRA was passed by Congress in 1990 to give Native people a mechanism through which they could reclaim specific objects of importance to the tribe. Because NAGPRA definitions were intended for widespread applicability, each tribe must negotiate a fit between these definitions and their own material culture. The broad range of viewpoints within any given tribal community creates internal negotiations over NAGPRA surrounding the identification and eventual return of such objects. Negotiations also arise concerning the nature of ownership. At the heart of this ongoing struggle are themes relevant to indigenous studies worldwide: the central role of material culture in cultural revitalization movements, concerns with intellectual property rights and self-representation, and the trend towards professional cultural resource management among indigenous peoples.
The conception of ownership lies at the heart of the Makahs’ struggle to implement NAGPRA. Tweedie explores their historical patterns of ownership, and demonstrates the challenges of implementing legislation which presumes a concept of communal ownership foreign to the Makahs’ highly developed and historically documented patterns of personal ownership of both material culture and intellectual property. Drawing Back Culture explores how NAGPRA implementation has been working at the tribal level, from the perspective of a tribe struggling to fit the provisions of the law with its own sense of history, ownership, and the drive for cultural renewal.
Authors & Contributors
Ann Tweedie is a social anthropologist and museum consultant in Pleasantville, New York.
Introduction: Drawing Back Culture
Makah Perspectives of NAGPRA
Five Villages, One Heartbeat: Precontact Makah Life
Makah Culture(s) and Histories in Flux
A New Era: Tribal Politics and Cultural Projects
Reconciling the Spirit with the Letter of the Law
Unresolved Ownership: Fates of Repatriated Objects
Appendix: Text of NAGPRA
Although tribal and museum repatriation programs must be developed for specific communities and cultures, other tribes and museums will find much of value in this history and case study, as will all those with an interest in tribal affairs and material culture. It is both a serious and significant work of scholarship and an emotionally engaging success story.- Janine Bowechop, Makah Cultural and Research Center