Plundered Skulls And Stolen Spirits: Inside The Fight To Reclaim Native America's Culture by Chip Colwell

Plundered Skulls And Stolen Spirits: Inside The Fight To Reclaim Native America's Culture

byChip Colwell

Hardcover | March 8, 2017

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Who owns the past and the objects that physically connect us to history? And who has the right to decide this ownership, particularly when the objects are sacred or, in the case of skeletal remains, human? Is it the museums that care for the objects or the communities whose ancestors made them? These questions are at the heart of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, an unflinching insider account by a leading curator who has spent years learning how to balance these controversial considerations.

Five decades ago, Native American leaders launched a crusade to force museums to return their sacred objects and allow them to rebury their kin. Today, hundreds of tribes use the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to help them recover their looted heritage from museums across the country. As senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Chip Colwell has navigated firsthand the questions of how to weigh the religious freedom of Native Americans against the academic freedom of scientists and whether the emptying of museum shelves elevates human rights or destroys a common heritage. This book offers his personal account of the process of repatriation, following the trail of four objects as they were created, collected, and ultimately returned to their sources: a sculpture that is a living god, the scalp of a massacre victim, a ceremonial blanket, and a skeleton from a tribe considered by some to be extinct. These specific stories reveal a dramatic process that involves not merely obeying the law, but negotiating the blurry lines between identity and morality, spirituality and politics.

Things, like people, have biographies. Repatriation, Colwell argues, is a difficult but vitally important way for museums and tribes to acknowledge that fact—and heal the wounds of the past while creating a respectful approach to caring for these rich artifacts of history.
 

About The Author

Chip Colwell is the senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. His work has been highlighted in such venues as the New York Times, Denver Post,  Huffington Post, and C-SPAN, and his books include Living Histories: Native Americans and Southwestern Archaeology and Inheriting the Past: The Making of Arthur C...
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Details & Specs

Title:Plundered Skulls And Stolen Spirits: Inside The Fight To Reclaim Native America's CultureFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:March 8, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629899X

ISBN - 13:9780226298993

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction

I. Resistance: War Gods

1. Only After Night Fall
2. Keepers of the Sky
3. Magic Relief
4. Tribal Resolution
5. All Things Will Eat Themselves Up
6. This Far Away

II. Regret: A Scalp from Sand Creek

7. I Have Come to Kill Indians
8. The Bones Bill
9. We Are Going Back Home
10. Indian Trophies
11. AC.35B
12. A Wound of the Soul

III. Reluctance: Killer Whale
Flotilla Robe


13. Masterless Things
14. Chief Shakes
15. Johnson v. Chilkat Indian Village
16. Last Stand
17. The Weight Was Heavy
18. Our Culture Is Not Dying

IV. Respect: Calusa Skulls

19. The Hardest Cases
20. Long Since Completely Disappeared
21. Unidentifiable
22. Their Place of Understanding
23. Timeless Limbo
24. Before We Just Gave Up

Conclusion

A Note on the Terms American Indian, Native American, Etc.
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits uses the story of one museum to show how Native American symbols of identity and ceremony and ancestral bones were initially appropriated as objects of cultural patrimony, but recently have become part of a complicated struggle of ownership. As Colwell profoundly shows, the emotional price paid by everyone involved—Native American, archaeologist, and museum curator—is never small.”