Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2006


Published in GREAT PLAINS RESEARCH 16:2 (Fall 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


The passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1991 significantly changed the way archaeology would be done in the United States. This act was presaged by growing complaints and resentment directed at the scientific community by Native Americans over the treatment of their ancestral remains. Many of the underlying issues came to a head with the discovery and subsequent court battles over the 9,200-year-old individual commonly known as Kennewick Man. This had a galvanizing effect on the discipline, not only perpetuating the sometimes adversarial relationship between archaeologists and Native Americans, but also creating a rift between those archaeologists who understood Native American concerns and those who saw their ancestral skeletal remains representing the legacy of humankind and thus belonging to everyone. Similar scenarios have emerged in Australia.