In the Smaller Scope of Conscience: The Struggle for National Repatriation Legislation, 1986–1990
In 1989, The National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) was successfully passed after a long and intense struggle. One year later, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) followed. These federal repatriation statutes—arguably some of the most important laws in the history of anthropology, museology, and American Indian rights—enabled Native Americans to reclaim human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
Twenty years later, the controversy instigated by the creation of NMAIA and NAGPRA continues to simmer. In the Smaller Scope of Conscience is a thoughtful and detailed study of the ins and outs of the four-year process behind these laws. It is a singular contribution to the history of these issues, with the potential to help mediate the ongoing debate by encouraging all sides to retrace the steps of the legislators responsible for the acts.
Few works are as detailed as McKeown’s account, which looks into bills that came prior to NMAIA and NAGPRA and combs the legislative history for relevant reports and correspondence. Testimonies, documents, and interviews from the primary players of this legislative process are cited to offer insights into the drafting and political processes that shaped NMAIA and NAGPRA.
Above all else, this landmark work distinguishes itself from earlier legislative histories with the quality of its analysis. Invested and yet evenhanded in his narrative, McKeown ensures that this journey through history—through the strategies and struggles of different actors to effect change through federal legislation—is not only accurate but eminently intriguing.
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Adams agency or museum Alaska Native amendment American Graves Protection American human remains American Indian Antiquities Act archeological artifacts associated funerary objects Bennett bill burial ceremonial Cheyenne Claims collections Committee on Indian Cong Congress cultural items cultural patrimony Daniel Inouye defined definition disposition Dog Soldier excavation federal agencies H.R. Hrg H.R. Rept Harjo Heard Museum House Committee identified included Indian Affairs Inouye Inouye’s inventory issue July legislation McCain Melcher Memorandum Morris Udall NAGPRA NARF National Museum National Park Service Native American Graves Native American human Native Hawaiian organization NMAI Act note 62 objects of cultural ofthe Onondaga Nation Protection and Repatriation reburial recommended religious remains and associated remains and funerary repatriation provisions representatives sacred objects scientific secretary Sept Smithsonian Institution specific statute supra note 74 Suzan Harjo Tall Bull tion tribal lands tribe or Native Udall Udall’s unassociated Walter Echo-Hawk