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Biden Rules Force Shutdown of Native American Exhibits at Museum!

The American Museum of Natural History has declared the immediate closure of two galleries housing Native American cultural artifacts, an action that has generated considerable controversy. The museum has reached this conclusion in an effort to adhere to revised federal policies concerning the return of sacred objects and indigenous remains to their respective communities. Thousands of artifacts associated with Native American nations are housed in the Hall of Eastern Woodlands and the Hall of the Great Plains, both of which are impacted by the closure. Additionally, lesser objects in other galleries will be removed from public view in accordance with the new regulations.

This advancement is a consequence of the December executive order issued by President Biden, which mandated additional assistance for tribal self-governance. A specific course of action demanded that the Interior Department complete the necessary revisions to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which was enacted into law in 1990 by President George H. Bush. Tribal reclaim of ancestral remains and cultural artifacts removed from tribal territories is permitted under this federal statute.

Museums and federal agencies are now obligated to secure tribal consent prior to the exhibition of Native American human remains and sacrosanct objects, as per the revised regulations. In addition, the regulations mandate that museums return all Native American remains in their collections within five years and consult the oral histories of the tribes when determining which groups to return sacrosanct cultural patrimony items to.

Opponents and supporters of the closure of these halls exist. In a letter to the staff, museum president Sean Decatur acknowledged that while the actions may appear abrupt to certain individuals, others have been anticipating them for quite some time. He lamented previous museum practices that lacked regard for the values held by indigenous peoples. Presently, establishments are obligated to show respect for the traditional wisdom of lineal descendants, Native Hawaiian organizations, and Indian tribes as Native Americans.

Nevertheless, tribal leaders have expressed apprehensions regarding the potential impact of fulfilling these additional requirements on communities already grappling with the task of tracing the provenance of artifacts acquired several years ago. This complicates the process of ascertaining which tribes ought to be consulted.

Indigenous antiquities are being removed and exhibits are being promptly closed at the American Museum of Natural History in order to adhere to the revised federal repatriation regulations. The Field Museum in Chicago and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University have both implemented comparable measures.

Although there are merits to the return of ancestral remains, some contend that a significant number of these artifacts lack any personal association with extant communities. Younger generations might have been better informed about the aboriginal inhabitants of this region and their opulent cultures had these cultural artifacts been utilized as instructional materials. Conversely, they will be disposed of indefinitely, resulting in bare shelves and sincere apologies.

Written by Staff Reports

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