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DoSER Public Engagement Award

Jayne-Leigh Thomas, Indiana University

More than Just Bones: Understanding the Osteological Methods Employed for NAGPRA

After the passage of NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), archaeological discussions focused on “white science” vs. “native religion” with very little room for productive dialogue. As a result, the osteological methodologies employed to prepare the ancestors for their rightful return home begin to elicit feelings of colonialism, mistrust, and abuse in tribal communities. This project will provide an opportunity for improved communication about osteological work and highlight the need for collaborative discussions and open dialogue between tribal nations and academic institutions. This workshop will focus on several things: breaking down loaded terms which elicit feelings of mistrust and abuse to tribal nations, explanations of the methodologies used and the federally mandated information that is gathered, and then options for additional information which can be obtained about the ancestor to tell a less clinical and more human aspect of their lives. The workshop will be built around an informal setting, to provide community members the opportunity to ask questions and engage in the discussion, rather than being “told” by an academic. This is an important part of continuing to work to break down previously engrained colonialist education styles.