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Cultivating a NAGPRA Community of Practice Summit, March 25-26, 2019

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Anne Amati

NAGPRA Coordinator


Community of Practice

Blog  •

On March 25 and 26, 2019, the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology (DUMA) hosted twenty-four museum NAGPRA* practitioners for a two-day summit to identify issues affecting NAGPRA implementation in museums and brainstorm ways to impact those issues. This gathering was part of a larger initiative to create a community of NAGPRA practitioners across the U.S. in order to increase capacity for implementation in museums, improve overall engagement of the museum field with ongoing NAGPRA work, and decrease misunderstanding and confusion still associated with NAGPRA among some museum professionals. This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MG-70-18-0050-18). More on the project here.

nagpra summit group

Prior to the summit, DUMA collected survey responses from NAGPRA practitioners (and non-practitioner museum professionals) to ensure a broad range of concerns were captured and included for discussion on the summit agenda. Preliminary results were divided into three handouts distributed to participants throughout the two days. The full summit report, including the preliminary survey results, can be accessed here. The survey is still open, please lend your voice to the conversation.

Practitioners from all over the United States participated in the two-day summit. "It was enlightening to see the spectrum of perspectives on implementing NAGPRA," reflected Brad Lepper, Senior Curator of Archaeology at the Ohio History Connection.

Graduate students from the University of Denver and University of Colorado Boulder assisted in meeting preparation and documented the meeting with meticulous notes. University of Denver Anthropology graduate student Ellyn DeMuynck noted of her experience, "the obstacles practitioners experience regionally demonstrated to me how important it is to take into account local histories when trying to implement NAGPRA." Jane Richardson, University of Colorado Boulder graduate student, added, "I am grateful to partake in the opportunity to witness and engage with current opinions and discussions regarding NAGPRA compliance. By reaching out and openly discussing these issues with others, we work towards a better solution."

*NAGPRA is a Federal law passed in 1990 that provides a process for lineal descendants, Native American Tribes, and Native American Hawaiian Organizations to request the return of human remains and certain cultural items from museums and federal agencies.