There is a saying in the Lummi language, Nilh tu o that describes the very beginning of time, when everything was dark. The Creator came around and gave life to this place we now call the Salish Sea and brought the people the tools they needed to survive. The Creator said to the people, these are yours now - take them. These tools included language, oral histories, and teachings. The people were taught to not only pass these down to future generations, but to uphold the integrity of this knowledge and to protect it.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law on November 16, 1990. This watershed legislation describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants and organizations with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. NAGPRA empowered Indigenous nations to take important steps toward reasserting and reaffirming their cultural heritage and patrimony through the legal and rightful transfer of cultural resources from outside institutions to community-based cultural organizations. However, NAGPRA did not address the disposition of rights associated with archival materials and offered no guidance in the ethical management of Indigenous cultural heritage found in records, manuscripts, photographs, and audio and video recordings. Through an evaluation of a long-term collaboration between tribal and non-tribal organizations in Western Washington, this paper will describe efforts to share and understand the Native cultural resources. The narrative explores a series of moral and ethical challenges from both the Native and non-Native perspective and offers strategies for sharing expertise, knowledge, and cultural resources that can assist in addressing historical injustices, misunderstandings and mistrust founded in the misappropriation of Native heritage by non-Native institutions.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/elizabeth_joffrion/12/