Today was the final day of the 2019 Council for Museum Anthropology Conference. Appropriately for the last day, the morning Breakout Session, Roundtable Discussion: “Collaboration Conversation: Exploring Large-Scale Returns of Legacy Collections to Home Communities” centered on two Indigenous communities, Hopi and Pueblo of Pojoaque, whom are currently working on projects that would allow for the temporary return [not repatriation] of their cultural items. Especially for Pueblo of Pojoaque, the idea to bring back their Tewa pottery, is to bring back/strengthen important cultural values held in those vessels.
Over lunch, we celebrated the end of the conference with traditional Pueblo cuisine made by the family of Tony Chavarria (Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Clara Pueblo). The food included delicious bean, beef and posole stew, red chili with potatoes and pueblo pie. After spending so much of the conference thinking and speaking on and about O’gha Po’oge (and its people), it was especially meaningful to close the last day with this food.
This afternoon, we attended the last plenary session called “Words to Ponder, Actions to Consider: Building Sustainable Change in Museum Anthropology.” Panelists included Governor Brian Vallo (Pueblo of Acoma), Teri Greeves (Artist and Curator, Kiowa), Tessie Naranjo (Independent Scholar, Santa Clara Pueblo), Cynthia Chavez Lamar (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, San Felipe Pueblo), Manny Wheeler (Navajo Nation Museum, Diné), and Lynda Romero (Poeh Cultural Center, Pueblo of Pojoaque). Bruce Bernstein (Coe Center for the Arts) chaired the panel, and both he and the audience asked the panelists questions. First and foremost, we want to thank these panelists for all the time that they spent with us. We also want to acknowledge that this blog post does not do justice to the plenary conversation, and much more conversation needs to occur on the topics discussed.
One theme running throughout the conversation was about how white anthropologists and museum professionals need to listen, to pass the mic. Expanding on this point, Teri Greeves highlights the ways Indigenous peoples will continue to preserve their cultural sovereignty with or without museums: “we don’t need need you or your museums." Another major theme was about NAGPRA and as Governor Vallo termed it, “the cost of culture,” the amount of money that Indigenous peoples spend to simply secure the return of sacred materials and cultural patrimony. Cynthia Chavez-Lamar discussed how large museums need to leverage their resources and positions to support the goals of tribal museums and cultural centers. The conversation time ended with an audience comment from Nunanta (Iris Siwallace) who is from the Nuxalk Nation and works for the Ancestral Governance Office there. She asked about reconciliation, a conversation that is happening in Canada that is not as active in the US, and how acts of reconciliation can move beyond decolonization. We encourage the CMA, and non-Indigenous professionals and scholars working in cultural heritage institutions to continue thinking about the conversations shared by Indigenous scholars today.
Once again, Askwali and thank you to the nineteen Pueblo communities of O’gha Po’oge for hosting us and the rest of the CMA community.
-Erin Monique Grant (Colorado River Indian Tribes) and Amanda Sorensen
Anne Ray Interns, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research