Navigating the “’thorny theoretical thicket’”: Ethical codes and archaeological models under NAGPRA

Author(s): Laura Masur

Year: 2014


Repatriation, the legal process of returning American Indian human remains and cultural objects to present-day tribes, is a dynamic and emotionally-charged subject. Nearly twenty-five years after the passage of NMAIA and NAGPRA, unresolved conflicts include the relationship between federal acknowledgement and repatriation as well as the disposition of culturally unidentifiable human remains. These are critical issues in Virginia, where active, state-recognized Indian tribes have had some success reburying ancestral remains, but are often inhibited by federal regulations and by archaeological approaches to cultural affiliation. This paper discusses the complex relationship between ethical standards, laws, and archaeological practice during the repatriation process. While NAGPRA practitioners often use older cultural models to guide research, a more theoretically-nuanced approach utilizing recent research in historical and community archaeology provides an empowering and effective alternative to culture historical models and the direct historical approach. Revised approaches to indigenous archaeology inform the ethical, and not simply legal, imperative of repatriation in Virginia.

Cite this Record

Navigating the “’thorny theoretical thicket’”: Ethical codes and archaeological models under NAGPRA. Laura Masur. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436821)

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Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-29,03