tv Congress and the National Museum of the American Indian Act CSPAN December 28, 2014 10:51am-12:02pm EST
select few are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for scheduling, programs and to keep up with the latest history news. >> 2014 marks the 20 fifth anniversary of the american indian act will establish the national museum of the american indian on the national mall and encouraged the return of human remains to federal the recognized indian tribes. next, a panel discussion on congress and the creation of that law. this is a little over an hour.
>> thank you, kevin. we can all thank rick for doing a fantastic meditation on this. a 30,000 foot level of issues we wanted to discuss today. to celebrate 25 years, we need to go back further than 25 years to see how we got to that point 25 years ago. our first panel was about that. behind the scenes of the act. the early years. we are so fortunate to have presenters, panelist who can speak to this with an incredible depth of knowledge. i would like to welcome them to come now. the first is patricia zell. she serves as the editor of the indian law and order. she retired in march 2005
following 25 years of service on the u.s. senate committee where -- committee on indian affairs where she served as the democratic staff director and chief counsel for the last 19 years of her senate service. the depth of knowledge possessed on these issues is unparalleled. she worked for the u.s. commission on civil rights american psychological association. i've been fortunate to work with her on the board of trustees where she is a member. so great to have you with us today. suzanne, as kevin mentioned, winner of the presidential medal of freedom, founded in 1984, she -- president of the national indian rights institute, founded in 1984. she is a writer, curator, who's helped native nations regain land, policy advances, across a
huge range. she is a poet, columnist. winner of honorary doctorate degrees, fellowships. all kinds of wonderful and amazing things. if you seen the nation to nation -- if you have seen the nation to nation exhibit, fantastic educational exhibit. she has been the driving force and the curator on that. she is a treasure to the indian country. you are so fortunate to have her with us. since rick does have the laryngitis thing happening i am going to step in for rick and join our panelists and moderate this session. you are going to speak from here right? >> good morning. this museum, the national museum of the american indian, he began
-- has its origins in repeat repatriation and it all began on february 20, 1987 when a hearing was held in the u.s. senate committee on indian affairs on a bill sponsored by senator john melcher. of montana. senator melcher's bill provided for the repatriation of native american human remains and objects that had been or might be found in future on federal land. lands administered by the federal agency of the u.s. government. the smithsonian institution was invited to present testimony that caring. the secretary of the smithsonian inform the committee in his testimony the smithsonian institution was in possession of 18,500 human remains of american indians, alaska natives, and hawaiians.
how did this happen? the congress learned that in the 1860's, the surgeon general put out an order to those in the field serving the united states military to gather skulls and other human remains of indian people that they might find on the battlefield, and send them to the army medical museum in washington, d.c. for purposes of scientific study. what did the surgeon general want to study? he wanted to test an emerging theory of his that there was a correlation between the size of a person's cranial capacity or skull and the intelligence of that person. apparently there was quite a response to the surgeon general's order. over time thousands of human remains were shipped to the army medical reasoning of -- army medical museum, most the remains
of american indians. too many for the american museum to study. they were transferred to the smithsonian institution. senator daniel k inouye shared that in the hearing. the second hearing he had presided over as the new chairman of the committee. he was both shocked and appalled by what he heard. after the hearing he called the committee staff together. he made it clear it was his intent that the committee addressed this matter. he was adamant the human remains they could identify as associate with a family or community or tribe of origin should be returned to their families community. for those human remains that
could not be so identified that there should be a memorial as a respectful and final resting place for those remains. similar to the tomb of the unknown soldier. the senator wanted that memorial to be situated on the national mall. in recognition of the fact that the native people of the united states for the first americans and should be so honored with a place of significance. we began work on that. we learned there was only one site the national mall. that site had been reserved for the smithsonian institution for a museum of men. we learned from the national park service much about the sighting of the monument. a gentleman from the national park suggested that if he was determined to have a memorial on the national mall he might want
to think of his memorial concept as the foundation for not only a memorial but a museum. several days later, the chair of the board of trustees of museum of american indian foundation invited the senator to visit the museum in new york. and the senator invited them to company to new york. that turned out to be the key from which the national museum of the american indian began to emerge. because of that, the collection was astoundingly large and vast and vast in its representation of all aspects of the cultures of native people from north central, and south america. soon thereafter, it appeared that the then current secretary of the smithsonian might find a way to honor the division of his
-- honor the vision of his predecessor, of building a museum of man. adapting the vision to a museum -- if the collection could be saved from further deterioration by transferring it to the smithsonian institution. the rest of the event culminated in the establishment of the national museum of the american indian. it is a much longer story that won't be recounted today because we want to keep their focus on
the theme of this symposium, repatriation. at the same time the bill was subsequently amended to extend its reach to federally funded institutions and became the subject of another hearing in the senate indian affairs committee. there was concern being expressed by federally-funded museums and scientific institutions that their respective great collections of native american art and artifacts would be broken up and return to indian country if repatriation were to become a national policy through the enactment of federal law. it was at that hearing that those that represented federally-funded museums and scientific institutions called upon the committee to delay action on senator melcher's bill so that a national dialogue amongst museums, scientific institutions, and representatives of indian country could proceed. it was thought that the outcome of such a dialogue might enable the shaping of a more sensitive, more limited, and more practical process of repatriation, if indeed repatriation were to be embraced as a national policy. one of the people who was most
instrumental in leading this dialogue was suzanne, do i think is the perfect person to share this aspect of the symposium. i will add just two more perspectives. interesting those who did not want to see a repatriation policy enshrined in federal law. from the vantage point of congress, repatriation that stuck a human cord in the house and senate. the notion with native american human remains associated with funeral objects, items of native people, should be locked away to the those who were most presence offended members even who did not express interest in indian
country. from the advantage of those two opposed to repatriation, they were charged with overseeing and propagating indian policy. questions like why should we accept that something is sacred, is a sacred part of native culture, and therefore should be a proper subject of repatriation just because a native person or native spiritual religious leader says it is sacred? i recall one meeting in which it spawned a discussion about how one could describe federal requirements described by such a law, like the log requiring law requiring repatriation. how could one describe something that is sacred to many, such as the bible or torah or koran? isn't that a sufficient number of people around the world that
hold the belief that these religious texts are sacred? who are the appropriate keepers of things that are sacred? should they be kept by anthropologists in libraries and museums and scientific institutions? these are the kinds of thought-provoking discussions that occurred then and that continue to make repatriation such a fascinating policy, as well as the subject that is often met with considerable resistance. fortunately, we have leaders who help to make those discussions in a constructive and take those constructions in a constructive and thoughtful direction as you will soon learn. thank you. [applause] >> one of the things we have
planned here is after people make remarks, we have collected questions in advance. i have this sheet of questions. it is also the case that in your packet you have cards. on those cards you can fill out cards if we have time at the end of the session. the microphones are at the back and we can take a few of those questions. a couple of things to think about. one of the things that has been really interesting in the history of the indian reorganization act has been the way that, according to one narrative, essentially one guy john collier, got something going. it matched with cultural things floating around in broader american society and did not align with other things, which ended up being contested. it was interesting and problematic ever sense. the narrative you just offered in some ways makes me wonder if
senator the no way the senator fits in that role as low, if the driving force of this was his own commitment and willingness to bring stakeholders to the table and continues to push, or the alternative sense that this moral issue did strike a chord with congress and made it easy. it cleared a pathway for this. i am wondering if you could speak about his role in the mechanics of it. how hard was it? it happened very quickly in ways relative to how congress functions now. this is actually my own question and not be prefigured one. i think it is worth thinking about which one person can actually drive things in relations to broader cultural stakeholders who are activists on the questions and how that coalition did or did not come together.
>> that is quiet a question, a multifaceted question. he had not been exposed to indian country very much when he assumed the german shepherd of the committee in 1987. many of the issues were new to him. this was only the second hearing that he chaired. the first one being on the presidential budget request. this was a whole new world for him. he could not believe that native americans were singled out as a group of people for whom it would be societally appropriate to take there remainstheir remains not only
from battlefields but disinter them and send them to washington to study. that would not happen to any of the group. people would be up in arms. this has been going on for over 100 years and no one has done anything about it. he was absolutely -- that shock and being really offended with something that became the motivating and driving force. i think he was ill-prepared for the resistance, the real pushback against any notion of repatriation being a federal policy, let alone a law that could be enforced in some manner. senator melcher's bill was very directed in that regard. senator melcher's bill was before the american indian act was being formulated. the reason i describe the steps about how nmai came into being
in is that nmai was on a similar track as to what became the repatriation act as you have indicated. by today's standards, and even then, the national museum of american indian act from the beginning to end, from april 1987, when alan parker and others, went to new york to see this great collection that was in a severe state of deterioration. from april 21, 1987 until november 1989, it took only two years to enact this massive police of legislation, not only in terms of its grand idea, a building of a museum on the mall
and a memorial on the mall, but also in terms of the amount of money associated established with this museum because the senator felt that american indian people, alaska natives, and native hawaiians had been loyal to this country, had served in the united states military, put their lives in harm's way and ought to be recognized as -- their legacy to the united states has been great and that the united states should essentially foot the bill for the establishment of this museum. that total figure of 100% federal funding was reduced to some extent so there would be
private funding also. the forward movement of the national museum of the american indian act and the national dialogue requested serve to put these two bills or initiatives +on separate tracks and the one on separate tracks and the one thing i would say is i think he was very taken aback by the resistance to the notion of repatriating human remains. to us today, that makes all the sense in the world. back then, it was quite controversial. the way that he was, he took this on and had scores and scores of meetings with the groups that did not want to see repatriation. we had these long discussions as i have mentioned. what is sacred? that was a long discussion. who are the right people to be able to be making these decisions? so on and so forth. these formative questions have continued to be the thread in
the dialogue in the 25 or 26 years since then. >> one of the things in rick's remarks, we could see both the ways that these two acts merged together. the legal apparatus in them is similar. at the same time, there is also a prying apart of at least two of the ways that people are thinking of them. one is human remains and moral obligations the other is the question of patrimony and living cultures. it always felt to me in some ways that the people who have been opposed to these things have blurred the lines of those so that the question of what is sacred, who is the best keeper of the sacred, aren't these objects universal property best taken care of in museums rather than actual tribal context and people, that language, who takes
care of, has a lot to do with patrimony and comes out of that question which is a little different than the moral question. these are human remains. i wonder if that is your sense as well and how that played out in the conversations around the legislation. was it possible to separate those out or did it get so mushy? it does not seem like it is in any one's advantage to let it get mushy. it seems more prudent to say patrimony is one question, human remains or another. around human remains, there is a moral issue, a historical issue, the senator's interest in a memorial, and then you have the trajectory that leads you to the nmai. on the other side, much more
confused, right? i guess i am wondering about how that difference ended up being negotiated, since some of the players here are exactly the same in terms of those two acts. >> i would defer to suzanne for the most part on this issue, but the national museum of the american indian act for establishing this museum was clearly the focal point of that effort. with the national dialogue going on, and this where he has in-depth experience having been part of that, the national dialogue was beginning to shape and change, at least on the surface, the orientation of the initial outrage of the scientific institutions, which
as kevin said, and this was said many more times than once that there are going to be large moving vans pulling up to the loading docks of museums and scientific institutions and everything that is native in their collections, whether human remains or associated objects will be taken from those most museums because they were federally funded. that national dialogue which was going on at the same time began to sensitize through very good interaction, the committee and the committees of congress participated in this just as observers. you began to see an "ah-ha" moment began to dawn in the minds of those opponents by
saying, would i want my grandparents disinterred? would i want there remains to be taken apart and studied? that really was something that in my mind was one of the areas where one could feel and understand yes, if i put myself in the place of a native person i would be highly offended. who should take care of these things? museums and scientific institutions at the outset said we have been keeping these things in absolute terrific curatorial condition. if we give them back to families, communities, they will not have the means to do what we have been doing. if that happens, these things are going to deteriorate and they're going to be lost. so for the good of our society for history, and for going forward, it is probably more appropriate. we have the means, the experience, curators. we can take care of these things better than tribes.
and individuals and families. so that was a bone of contention. i think suzanne could again reply more clearly. >> is a moment where your patrimony becomes our patrimony. could you say a quick word just about the rest of the smithsonian in relation to the nmai and nagpra? a quick sketch of that landscape? >> the national museum of the american indian act applies only arguably to the national museum of the american indian, which was not formed until the act was signed into law. the museum of natural history. there definitely was some level of discomfort about having it apply to any other smithsonian museum.
when nagpra came along, was signed into law. the great debate that took place then was, why shouldn't nagpra be applied to the smithsonian? the argument from the smithsonian side is we are ready have repatriations provisions. they are not tailored to the smithsonian as they are they represent a point in time that the repatriation state was going debate was going on. that debate became much more extensive. to this day, the smithsonian is not subject to the provisions of nagpra. it is subject to the national museum of the american indian act repatriation conditions.
>> why don't we turn to your thoughts on the public? we have a lot of the political stuff going on. suzanne has the activist stuff. >> so many things come to mind after hearing these pieces that have been presented so well by everyone. one thing that i need to say is about the way repatriation has been interpreted and i think misinterpreted by a number of judges in the country. one, in the kennewick man case
whether or not nagpra applies to the ancient one and whether the native nation should have who claimed him in the northwest should be allowed to reburied him. one judge found that nagpra did not even apply, and why? because the definition of native american was written in such a way that nagpra only applied to anyone who was buried or who post-dated 1776, the founding of the country. that was very strange. for that circuit, it still holds even though the tribes were not party to that case and even
though their views had not been heard and there had not been any real discussion of that, an argument of that point. and no one in their right mind who put the act together thought that nagpra only applied to people who were buried after america was founded, after the united states was founded. so, that is a silly thing that the courts have done, but in an an elaborate way of making one dead native person be subject to the very laws that made us the archaeological resources of the united states of america that we were trying to get away from in
the human rights legislation of nagpra. the others, the recent decisions by the circuit court in the case of who gets to bury jim thorpe. the town of jim thorpe pennsylvania, where he is now, or the nation where he wanted to be buried. and his family. they are the next of kin of jim thorpe. jim thorpe had been taken in the middle of his death ceremony. the return of his name, his indian name ceremony, which had
been taken who came in from a door reserved only for the dead and took him in the middle of that ceremony out and he was sold. his remains were sold to what became the town of jim thorpe, pennsylvania. so the judges are saying that nagpra does not apply to a town. well, yes, it does. we did not mean just museums or just federal agencies or just educational institutions. we meant any holding repository. we did not name in nagpra historical societies, but they are included. they are definitely a part of this. there is a list of entities that
were not named in nagpra but are covered by nagpra and the rules of it because they are holding repositories of human remains or other things. so, i hope that has changed in the future, that particular ruling, but these are kinds of things that are so important now. you see a lot of backsliding in museums where people, even though we took great pains not to define the sacred when we were working on the legislation, because no other religions have to define the sacred. why should we? why should we have that additional burden on us? we won that argument. i see a lot of backsliding by various museums, including the national museum of the american
indian, where there are efforts to prove that something is sacred. well, it is a declarative process. it is sacred because the people it is sacred to have said this is sacred. and there is no other test. it is not up to a museum administrator or any kind of bureaucrats in any holding repository. it is up to the people whose religion it is. that is the kind of thing that i think we have to be very guarded about and very careful about because we are going to lose 25 years of effort and 25 before that of serious effort, to gain
repatriation legislation, and make no mistake. we revolutionized museum allergy museum revolutionized musiology in several ways. just by requiring inventories. holding repositories did not know what they had in their museums or in those collections. they had no idea. i will speak for the one i was trustee of, the museum of the american indian in new york, whose collection formed the basis of this museum, once nationalized. the meeting that patricia talked about where we all went to new york and went through the collection -- there had been a flood the night before in this warehouse in the bronx and the
inventory cards for what inventory existed were on recipe cards and some of them were handwritten and so the ink was running. some were typed, so you could still read them, but they were all rolled up like giant fritos, and people had them on the tops of anything that was dry. file cabinets, ledges. there were all of these little recipe cards curled up and waiting to be dried out so they could be flattened down. the fringe of the buckskin dresses was just filled with sewer water. there were
wharf rats in there. i don't know if you have ever seen a wharf rat, but they are giant. they look like small dogs. [laughter] they are not tiny things. they are big gray rats. and there were big water beetles. this was the condition, granted, under extraordinary conditions a flood. nonetheless, this is how the collection was being housed. before that meeting, we had already been through a number of meetings as trustees of the museum of the american indian trying to find a home for this collection, because it was deteriorating rapidly and we needed to have someplace for it to stabilize and then to refurbish, to begin to make repairs. every place we talked with had
some -- they all wanted the collection. the american museum of natural history, the corning glass, all wanted this collection. and they did not want to give anything to us. they did not want a specific number of native people on the board of trustees. they did not even want to museum of the american indian to have a presence on the new entity that would be created. what we were really looking for is a national place. we want to the cultural center that we had envisioned in 1967
when we first were met about this and envisioned what a place that worked for us might be. because no place was working for us. and we always called it a cultural center until right before we started working on the american indian religious freedom act in 1978 and we really had to change to museum because cultural center did not fit in any place. so we changed our thinking about that to museum, but we were trying to put as many elements of a cultural center as we could into that and we worked very closely at that time with the
people who had been the book ends of the sponsors for the american indian religious freedom act, and those were senator barry goldwater and senator ted kennedy. many people were in between those two because you could not be on one side or the other of the two of them. they were literally the political book ends at that time. senator inouye was one of them in the middle. the ones we really depended on were at the ends and they were the ones who helped us and helped the various federal agency do the very first repatriations, which were done under any sort of federal law and that was done under the american indian religious freedom act in 1978, 1979, and 1980. those were pretty much in the defense department, with the army. there were a number of repatriations of not only human
remains, but the precious things they had been buried with and also cultural patrimony. by cultural patrimony, what we meant was -- as it is defined in nagpra -- those things that were owned by the people as a whole the nation as a whole, or a society as a whole, or a clan as a whole, so that any one person couldn't alienate, couldn't make a deal and sell off this because so many of the holding repositories told us that they had title to some of these items, too many of these items. well, they had a piece of paper saying someone gave this to me or someone sold this to me. often times, or once in a while,
not often times, they had a bill of sale by a person who was of that group and our point was you can't depend on a person who is of the group because they are not acting for a group is the whole. -- for the group as a whole. that is an important element of cultural patrimony. when we were dealing with these issues, the people who wanted to hold onto human remains and two things were saying it is our right. this is our property, because they had studied the people or the things. we own this. that is something we worked very hard to readjust.
once we took it from property to human rights, which was the hardest struggle, most difficult thing that we did from american indian religious freedom act through the follow-on legislation to that policy of repatriation, we insisted on the humanity of the people and humanity of the next of kin, the people that cared the most about the people, about our dead relatives. we were very committed to that. the national dialogue that patricia talked about -- we
really insisted on revamping a legislating of the lexicon of respect, and that is something that people really fought us on in the report. what i mean by that is the scientific terms were things like grave goods, so it was not scientific at all. it was just that is the language of pirates. instead of grave goods, we are saying funerary objects, and we are talking about the funerary process and burial grounds rather than the individual burials talking about things about the funerary process rather than what you do to get
someone in the ground or in a cave, and we talked about surrogates. it is a very important part of this. something something that has held a human being, talking about cremation pots and other objects, these are human remains. these are the same as human remains. the surrogates are the same as human remains. i think a lot of museums try to fight that as if it is not already settled law, but that is settled law. we also, in the national dialogue insisted on human remains rather than the scientific terms of specimen or bones or skeletons or other things that were nonspecific and nonscientific. in the national dialogue report, the physical anthropologist and
the archaeologist dissociated themselves from the term human remains by name in a footnote. i was so happy that they had done that. finally they came out in the open and said we don't want anything that says human remains. you can say remains, but not human. why? because they did not want international standards of human rights applied to our dead relatives. and what are those? that people get to get married -- to be buried and stay buried. that is basically it. that people get to be disposed of the way they want and the manner they want. and in the way that the next of kin want. those were our efforts and
challenges and it's always a little difficult to think about the things that were the most contentious at any given time because you like to think we have moved on and everyone is going in the same direction, but where you see some of these arguments cropping up again, as if these things have not already been resolved, you have to take a look at it and not to say, how can we resolve it, but to say here is a course correction for you.
this is the course. it has already been settled. we have already worked on that. we have already decided it. two of our earliest people who really supported repatriation were charlie rangle, whose district the museum of the american indian was in, in new york. he and david rockefeller and the very first meeting of new yorkers, meaning the people and new york who wanted a particular agenda for anything that might happen in negotiations for new york, that first meeting was cochaired by david rockefeller and charlie rangle representative rangle, and they both said that they wanted a permanent presence for the museum in new york no matter what happened and they wanted
repatriation for native people. and they said -- and native people wanted this permanent presence in new york and they want repatriation and so people said, great. we are for it. even though they did not understand necessarily what repatriation was, they understood what a deal was. that is what we were making. deals all along. i'm going to anticipate a question that was given that phil deloria decide may not to ask, so i will answer a question that has not been asked about ross perot's bid for the collection. ross perot really did us a great favor. it was at a time when we could not get commitments or the attention, in most cases, of
people in washington or in new york to saving this collection or to building a national museum of the american indian. we were wed to both things repatriation and a new entity in washington was what we wanted. this is what we wanted and this is what we ultimately got, but no one was interested in giving us that or helping us get there. so, some of us were waiting around to go to -- after a board meeting in new york to go to dinner at peter kranzler's place, which happened to be the 21 club in new york. we were at the highs and lows of
new york society, dealing with the water bugs and the war frats w --harf rats and going to be 21 club. the people were myself, peter kranzler, deloria, and charlie simon, who is one of the partners at salomon brothers. he had been very silent during the whole board meeting about who rejected as for what and it was a pretty gloomy reports. charlie said, what we really need is a bidding war. we need a bidding war where everyone wants this collection. we said, that is a great idea and good. how do you propose that we do it?
he says well, i have an idea. ross perot once a world-class museum in dallas. and he is not particular about the class. and we think, i think, if we suggested to him that he could get this, he could help us get what we wanted by telling people he wants this. he might end up with that, what he would really be helping us reach our goal which would be he would not end up with it. he said, i think you would do it. we agreed it was worth a call. he made the call and he came
back to us and said, he is going to do it. he is going to put out a public bid and he will do it with the "new york times." he's probably already done it. we said, why is he doing it? he said, he knows his place in american society. he knows who he is. and it was such an interesting exchange and evaluation of ross perot and by golly, the minute it hit the streets that ross perot wanted this, there was an outcry -- ross perot wanted this, there was an outcry from new york saying this is a new treasure, how dare he. this is a national treasure. and everyone was just coming up with superlatives about what kind of a treasure it was and we
have to save this and vine deloria had the best line, which is just -- they are terrified he is going to get barbecue sauce on the beadwork. [laughter] well, bless his heart. he did that for us. he did that for us and put himself out for public mockery and was her best friend because he did start that bidding war that charlie simon so wisely knew we needed and foretold what would happen if we had it. so i want to wrap up my remarks just by saying that for the most part, i am thrilled and delighted at the way that museums and other holding repositories, not the borough of jim thorpe, pennsylvania, but most, have implemented repatriation law and done what so -- what we tried to do.
one reason that nagpra looks different from other laws that you sort of walk along and fall off the edge and say what happened there? it is because we built that into the law, saying we do not know enough here in this room to decide what happens out there. what we have to do is set up situations where the people who know most and care most about these people and things come together at the earliest possible time and then they developed what they are going to do with a creation.
that the law is a continuing organic thing. we are coming up with policy guidelines and not coming up with the ultimate solutions for anyone. we are making sure that native people have a place at the table, that consent of the native people is built-in to this. what a novel idea. but it had not been before. and that human rights are regarded. that this is not a property issue, that this is a responsibility issue, and that we have these early interactions and that the holding repositories need to figure out what they have and what kind of entity they are.
what we were doing was part of the broader museum community which was moving from storage to public interaction. that was the big movement that was taking place at the same time. we benefited from that. secretary bob adams was right at the top of that and understood it even though many -- he was vilified from within the smithsonian, and in some cases still is because of what he did. but he was so right to be ahead of everyone else on this and to understand where that natural wave was going and why. i really commend so many people here and in our recent past for doing so well in completing
repatriations in the spirit that we meant them. here is the framework. here are the guidelines. here are strict requirements that are needed. and now it is up to you. that is the part that is so interesting and so valuable and the stuff of, i think, new scholarship that begins saying welcome home. welcome back. [applause]
>> we have a couple of minutes left. suzanne, one of the things that never fails to amaze and frankly has blown me away is that whenever we have a conversation about some of these things is the extent of strategic thinking, forward thinking, of anticipating all kinds of canned his these -- all kinds of contingencies. we sit and look retrospectively back and think we could have done better than we did, but not always. in this, there was so much strategic and tactical thinking that went into this over such a long period of time. you mentioned 1967. if you could step us back to that first moment and give us a quick picture about what some of those conversations look like that produced the strategy over eight 50 year stretch of time that ended here today. >> well, our various elders had
told us to reserve time after ceremonies in south dakota in june of 1967 for talks. they wanted talks on what to do about people's dreams and visions where people were calling to them, or objects were summoning them, or they kept having views of things that were being held, like prisoners in places. so we did that. we had four days of talks after these ceremonies and there were a lot of elders.
there were a lot of young people, especially young people that had just come back from vietnam, from combat service in vietnam and two were particularly interested in bringing home people who had been killed there. they were talking about human remains and they were talking about them in very specific terms, you know, bob and jim and joe. they were not talking about them in abstract terms. and they used these terms of prisoners of war. a lot of what we began to talk
about was how you require the kind of ceremony is this that -- the kind of ceremonious ness that the army was using and the navy was using in the return of human remains to the people and they were not insisting on any particular ceremony that they were respecting the things that were sacred and the ways that were sacred of the people that they were returning the people and their precious things. whatever the precious thing might be, it was not something that they kept. this was very different from the way things had started out with the smithsonian and the army medical museum jointly advertising in the "rocky mountain news" and other newspapers for citizens to go
out and bring them crania, indian heads, and to bring them the grave goods. and they split them up between the smithsonian museum, as it was called then, and the army medical museum. they just split them up. it was not as simple as you get the people and you get the things. it was some of these, some of those, some of these, some of those. they kept pretty good records, which is something that helped us in our efforts once they found them. everyone denied that these things went on. we had to find the evidence ourselves and a lot of it was hidden in plain sight. once they were found, it was just a treasure trove in the
institutions of the smithsonian institution itself. like the reports of the army officers who were going out and one said -- i waited until the cover of darkness until the grieving family left the grave site and exhumed to the body and decapitated it and the crania is transported forth with. he waited for the cover of darkness. he saw the people breathing and burying their loved one. i waited to cover of darkness until the grieving family -- and then did this other thing. and this was an honorable enterprise for him.
this was meritorious, something directed by the army's surgeon general. my word. we were doing something in 1967 that was so different from that kind of thing and that kind of thinking and when we went out to build coalitions and to tell people, other people what we had done, we found many people who were thinking along the same lines, at zuni pueblo where we went first, and that otherpueblos in california, and in the northeast, there had been people who had been working in different areas and thinking along these lines and we just increased and increased and increased our knowledge base our strategy base, we increased our thinking.
by the time we got to the 80's, we had really worked on something that would have been 12 dissertations in another setting. we knew what we were talking about. we knew what we had in common. even though we had not found the exact documentation about the army surgeon general stuff their actions, and the smithsonian's actions, we knew there had been beheadings because every place we went to people talked about beheadings. and no one had that in their traditions. no one had that. they had experienced that until
-- they had not experienced that until the european games. everyone would ask the same thing -- why did they want our heads? why did they take our heads? our strategy was developed out of people's experience, people's history, the questions that people had, and what we saw as commonalities that had to be the truth because they were experiences across cultural lines, across political lines, across tribal lines. they had to be truths that we were dealing with and we had solutions here because someone had worked it out or someone had thought about it enough to anticipate what would happen after we worked it out. everyone knows a good idea when you hear it. once someone has a good idea, we
would all embrace that and move in that direction, or move in another direction. so our strategy was really well-founded, well-based well-sourced, and we understood what we wanted. we really understood what we wanted so that once we got to the -- how do you actually do this part, or this part, we already had the answers. we already had a lot of answers. if we did not have answers, we knew that it was not appropriate for us to provide an answer, and that is where we had the leave it to the people approach. leave it to the people who are going to implement this law. that is really the thinking and
the process that we went through when we did that from 1967 to 1989. we were still working on that even though we had the framework for nagpra in our national dialogue report in january of 1989. >> so this is a story that unfolds over 150 years, a 20 -- over a 22-year sweep, and over a two-your sleep, representing long-term political effort, strategic thinking coalition building, linked up with a moment of possibility people on the ground changing social and cultural conditions within american society in a -- as a whole and i think our panelists have taken us through those scales. the quick turnarounds that is the culmination of long-term efforts of people on the ground. it is 10:45 which means it is time for us to take a break.
stretch our legs. the restrooms are out to the lobby. the drinking fountain is near and the entrance to the cafe. if you would return at 11:00 when the symposium will resume and think both of our patients -- and second of all, to thank our panelists patricia zell and , suzanne harjo. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] but few are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. join the conversation on facebook. next the conversation -- next virginia commonwealth university instructor christopher saladino talks about the competition between the u.s and the soviet union to build advanced nuclear weaponry during the cold war. he d