Proud 2 B Indigenous May 22-31 !!
In honor of the twelfth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (May 22-31), we are participating in
Indigenous peoples all over the world are snapping pics of themselves or their community holding a piece of paper with the
#Proud2BIndigenous or #P2BI
written on it, then posting it to Facebook and Tweeting it.
THANK YOU LEONDA, YOSTA AND BEN FOR GETTING NMAI STARTED!
Read their full caption in our Photo Album on our Facebook at:
This project began as a coalition with First Peoples Worldwide, Cultural Survival and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and has since grown with over 50 Indigenous and Indigenous-friendly organizations from around the world participating. Learn more about the project on NMAI’s Facebook event page at:
Twitter Account URL is: https://twitter.com/SmithsonianNMAI
Facebook Page URL is: https://www.facebook.com/NationalMuseumoftheAmericanIndianinDC
Send in your pics! Share this email with your friends and family and invite them to send in pics too!
- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/arts/design/museums-move-to-return-human-remains-to-indigenous-peoples.htmlGordon Welters for The New York Times
Thomas Schnalke, director of the Museum of Medical History in Berlin, helped write new guidelines on how to handle human remains like these bones displayed at his institution.
BERLIN — Rows of gaptoothed human skulls and formaldehyde-soaked brains stock the Museum of Medical History here, where the popular exhibition “Beneath the Skin” can be so grim that visitors will occasionally swoon to the cold stone floor.
For more than a century, the museum has exhibited assorted limbs, bones, tubercular lungs and fetuses, all in the name of science and enlightenment. Yet lately the curators are re-evaluating the principles that govern their displays as they confront a growing debate over what cultural organizations should be doing to preserve the dignity of the dead.
Many of the world’s grand museums are hearing increasing demands for the return of human remains from former colonies or conquered peoples. Some are giving back bones and skulls that were once viewed as exotic trinkets and were traded by native peoples for calico or plundered in the late 1800s by scientists exploring racial differences.
Late last month the medical museum and officials who direct the anatomy collection of a sister organization at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, returned 33 skulls and skeletons to Australia and to members of tribes from the Torres Strait Islands between northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The handover took place in a simple ceremony in a lecture hall at the Charité. Gray cardboard boxes of remains were draped in white and aboriginal flags.
“These are very moving moments for indigenous people around the world,” said Ned David, a Torres Strait islander who helps lead a repatriation group and attended the Berlin ceremony. “They are bringing their ancestral remains home. There are mixed emotions, one obviously of relief, so it’s a celebration. And then the moment is tinged with sadness for what was involved with the removal of the remains.”
That same week the German Museums Association issued new ethical guidelines for museums on how to handle human remains in the face of repatriation claims from former colonies where scientists gathered skulls and skeletons under murky circumstances more than a century ago.
In a 70-page report, sprinkled with references to Kant’s concept of human dignity, a commission of lawyers and curators recommended that institutions study provenance systematically and return remains that had been collected as part of a violent conflict. They urged each individual museum to develop a policy and concluded that “there is no simple answer that can be applied equally to all collections.”
In many ways, the German association is drawing on the experiences of museums in Britain and the United States, which started facing claims for the repatriation of human remains decades ago. The Smithsonian began to repatriate American Indian bones in the late 1980s, and in 1990 the United States passed legislation to enforce the return of those remains by museums that benefit from federal funds. The Smithsonian independently returned remains to Australia in 2008 and 2010.
However, a report in 2011 from the Government Accountability Office still urged new measures to speed up the Smithsonian’s work, because by then it had returned only 5,000 remains, about one-third of its collection of such material.
Human remains are held by many of the world’s museums, most typically those exploring natural history, science, medicine and archaeology.
Collecting such remains in pursuit of scientific knowledge once went unchallenged, but now institutions face the quandary of how to display Egyptian mummies in a respectful fashion. What is the purpose of displaying shrunken heads or tattooed Maori skulls or bone flutes? And should curators return remains that have been transformed into works of folk art?
In England, the Manchester Museum just issued a six-page statement of its guidelines for its natural history collection that pledges transparency and “respect” for human remains. It is looking to transform old exhibitions to reflect new attitudes by, for example, offering more information about the lives of people preserved as mummies, so they can be viewed as individuals instead of specimens.
Experts on the repatriation issue say that it appears that many museums are growing more sensitive. “There’s a lot of work to do,” said Paul Turnbull, a history professor at the University of Queensland, in Australia, who has studied the use of indigenous remains. “But there is a trickle effect. When museums are contacted, they are now willing to talk.”
Australian diplomats say that even France’s traditionally bureaucratic museums are trying to streamline the process by creating a commission to develop a system to avoid passing national legislation for each individual return.
And at the Smithsonian, the handover of remains has become such an institutional ritual that it has a special room for such ceremonies. Other institutions, like the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, in Berkeley, Calif., have followed suit.
Jordan Jacobs, head of cultural policy at the Hearst, said that fears that a policy of returning remains would empty museums and hurt science have not been borne out. “It has been positive for relations between museums and tribal communities,” he said. “We are learning so much because of these conversations.”
Others, though, say they are concerned that repatriation could hamper scientific studies, particularly as developments in DNA research permit scientists to draw more information from ancient remains.
“The danger is that museums will no longer explore because they will have other priorities,” said Tiffany Jenkins, a sociologist and author of “Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections.” “There’s a whole host of research that isn’t being done because it’s too sensitive.”
And museums will still push back on occasion. For example, Mr. David, of the Torres Strait Islands, said he was still reeling from the British Museum’s rejection last fall of a reburial claim for two “divining skulls” that had been decorated with pearl shells, beeswax and wood. They were collected by a 19th-century British marine biologist who wrote in vivid detail about trading a tomahawk and calico for a skull from a native family that he said had removed it from a burial site and transformed and decorated it in tribute to a dead male relative named Magau.
In the language of the British Museum trustees, the reburial claim was rejected because it was not clear “that the process of the mortuary disposal of the skulls had been interrupted.”
Hannah Boulton, a spokeswoman for the British Museum, explained that this means that “these skulls were possibly created for trade or sale rather than burial.”
The repatriation debate has been particularly unsettling in Germany, where demands for the return of skulls from Namibia has reopened a dark chapter of Germany’s brief colonial history in southwest Africa, where thousands of rebellious members of the Nama and Herero tribes were killed by German troops in 1904. Some human remains were later used by German scientists in discredited scientific studies that aimed to document the racial superiority of Europeans over Africans and indigenous tribes.
Today officials at the Museum of Medical History here — which has more than 5,000 skulls in storage — say the new German guidelines are just the beginning of an evolving process that emphasizes evaluating each claim individually within a moral framework.
Thomas Schnalke, the museum’s director, who helped devise those standards, said he knows that returns stir uneasiness among museums, which worry that such repatriation could intensify demands for looted art objects too. “There is anxiety that it might open the gates,” he said. So far, he added, the “avalanche effect” has not happened, and the reparations have aided a “healing process.”
He cited the museum’s ceremony for the return of remains last month. It was, he said, surprisingly moving because of its stark simplicity: no flowers, no music, “just pure words” of loss and homecoming.A version of this article appeared in print on May 25, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline:
Museums Confront the Skeletons in Their Closets.
Alabama high school graduate Chelsey Ramer was fined $1,ooo and denied her diploma and transcripts after wearing an eagle feather attached to her mortarboard as a symbol of her Native American heritage. Ramer is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, and had previously attempted to appeal the school policy banning students from wearing “extraneous items” with the school’s headmaster, but her request was denied.
Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians have re-occupied a ranch in the western state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The Terena indigenous group says the ranch, which belongs to a local politician, lies on their ancestral land. On Thursday one of their members was shot as police evicted the group from the site, which it had occupied for two weeks.
Wildfires, including one that could threaten Native American archaeological sites in New Mexico, raged across the western United States on Monday as dry weather and gusty winds stymied firefighters' efforts to tame the blazes. In southern California, 2,000 people remained out of their homes as evacuation orders stayed in place for a brushfire north of Los Angeles that has spread to 30,000 acres and destroyed six homes since it erupted last Thursday.
Two members of the Nooksack tribal council are suing the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, saying the agency has failed to provide them with documents in response to a public records request. The Bellingham Herald reports (http://is.gd/8NIDAc ) that the council members, Michelle Roberts and Rudy St. Germain, are among 306 Nooksacks whose right to tribal membership are being challenged by Chairman Bob Kelly and five other council members.
American Indian mascots, names and imagery will stay in Michigan districts that alleged the use of such imagery was discriminatory. The complaint, filed earlier this year by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, could have had national implications and would have forced schools to choose new mascots, names of imagery.. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has dismissed a complaint filed against Michigan
Monsanto is an exception to the rule. Usually even the worst things in life have some positive aspect, but the actions of this multinational producer of genetically modified organisms and toxic pesticides are so evil that it’s become an easy mark for global wrath toward capitalist corporations that are ruining the economy, biodiversity and people’s health.
Worldwide demonstrations against the company took place following the “Monsanto Protection Act” passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March1 and the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of patents on living organisms2
Millions of people gathered across the world on May 25, outraged by the complicity of the governments with the interests of the transnational corporation.
Monsanto has immense power to corrupt. A company that last year grossed more than $14 trillion dollars3 and spent $6 million in lobbying4 can be very convincing for the U.S. Supreme Court or the president, not to mention its influence over Mexican government officials and legislators. Portrayed as a technologically innovative company, it is a monopoly whose objective is to control at all costs food agro-food production by diverting laws and manipulating patents to legalize looting peoples and nations.
But the biotech giant, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is in the eye of the hurricane since studies came out recently regarding the dangers posed to human health and life by genetic engineering of food. Last year a study from the University of Caen in France documented the effects of genetically modified (GM) corn NK 603 and the weed killer Round-Up or Faena (glyphosate) on mammals, both products made by Monsanto. Rats fed with these ingredients for two years, in doses equal to their exposure in the environment, developed breast cancer and chronic hormonal, kidney and hepatic dysfunctions, as well as premature death.
Just last April, scientist Stephanie Seneff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an independent colleague, Anthony Samsel, concluded that glyphosate, the most widely used weed killer in the world, interferes with the biosynthesis of nutrients in the human digestive apparatus and is at the root of fatal diseases associated with the western diet: gastrointestinal illnesses, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, infertility, depression, autism, cancer and Alzheimer’s.6
Concerned for their health and that of their children, Mexican activists in favor of healthy food and in defense of maize and the environment responded to the global call for a day against Monsanto. They organized the “Carnival of Corn” in Mexico City on May 25 and demanded that President Enrique Peña Nieto refuse to be bought or pressured by the agrochemical giant and protect the well-being of the population.
Hundreds of young people from political, social and environmental organizations and artists’ collectives held cultural events and paraded from the Palace of Fine Arts to the Monument to the Revolution. It was a festive atmosphere, with drummers and street theater, music, performance and dance. Handmade signs ranged from the humorous to the furious: “Monsanto, Go home! (Hell)”, “We are not your f*** scientific experiment”. The most popular hash tag in the social networks was #FueraMonsanto (#MonsantoOut)
The street festival caught the eye of vagrants and passers-by, attracted by the joy and color of the artistic expressions. The slogans in defense of food and culture broadened the traditional repertory of march chants. “Queremos frijoles, queremos maíz, queremos a Monsanto fuera del país” (We want beans, we want corn, we want Monsanto out of our country”)
Youth comprised the overwhelming majority of participants. Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico-based international think tank the Americas Program, noted “a new generation of activists that reject GMOs and is convinced corporations like Monsanto are a threat–not only to our food but to life on this planet. On the global scale, it’s really important the way in which these movements that started in several countries are finally coming together. In the United States people are beginning to react, there are many grassroots networks. They´re not just NGOs but citizens that are organizing and could even annul the infamous Monsanto Protection Act. It’s a battle that has a lot of symbolism and both sides have a lot at stake.”
Mexico is the global center of origin of maize. Even so and defying the warnings of scientists, producers and consumers, the past administration of Felipe Calderon authorized open-air cultivation of GM corn in the experimental and pilot phases. In 2011, Monsanto and other transnationals filed for permits to cultivate commercial GM corn on more than a million hectares in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas in the northern part of the country. Apparently the government did not respond to the requests during the allotted time period. But Monsanto raised the stakes this season, applying in March for more than 11 million hectares for commercial cultivation in the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango.7
Mexican officials and legislators are inclined to favor Monsanto’s petition. Since 2005 they have been paving the legal road for the invasion of GM crops. Only broad and organized public opposition and concerns about the political cost of the move have kept them from speeding up the process.
By organizing from the grassroots, Mexico has made some positive steps forward, including local and national efforts to establish the conditions for food sovereignty, community seed banks to preserve native seed, protection and consolidation of production for family and community needs in areas not controlled by Monsanto, and an increase in public awareness of the strategic importance of defending native corn.
For the May 25 demonstrators it’s clear that accepting Monsanto’s designs would be a frontal attack on food sovereignty, conservation of the agro-genetic wealth of Mexican corn varieties, and the right of peasant farmers to maintain their important labor as food producers. In short, an attack on the right to life.
Over this year, actions to resist Monsanto and GM corn have multiplied in Mexico. A nine-day hunger strike staged at the foot of the Angel of independence statue in Mexico City in January by the National Union of Regional Autonomous Peasant Organizations (UNORCA, by its Spanish initials) brought public attention to the demand to block GM corn production. It was followed by a large march on Jan. 31.
The movement Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without corn there is no country), the Mexico chapter of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace Mexico, among others, have made public statements, organization demonstrations and carried out high-impact actions in defense of native corn. Greenpeace recently hung a huge banner reading “NO GMOs” on the downtown monument called the Tower of Light– a structure notorious throughout the country for its scandalous cost overruns and considered a monument to governmental corruption.8
The activities have been inspired by deep concerns for the health of the people and the environment, based on verifiable information obtained from careful studies carried out by respected scientists without a conflict of interest.
But the more evidence that emerges showing the dangers or possible dangers of Monsanto products, the more the company spends on efforts to slander the messenger, defame the scientists who carried out the studies and deceive the public. A decent corporation would respond with concern, commission unbiased investigations and withdraw products from the market to protect the population. Monsanto is not a decent corporation. The one merit that can be attributed to it is that it has sparked a dynamic global movement against it that is demanding accountability for who grows our food and how they do it.
Alfredo Acedo is Director of Social Communication and adviser to the National Union of Regional Organizations of Autonomous Small Farmers of Mexico and a contributor to the Americas Program www.cipamericas.org on food and agriculture issues.
For More Information:
“Mexican Farmers Block new Law to Privatize Plants”, Alfredo Acedo, Americas Program
“Monsanto Uses Latest Food Crisis to Push GM Corn in Mexico”, Alfredo Acedo, Americas Program
“The Fight for Corn”, Alfredo Acedo, Americas Program
This exhibition has been co-organized by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Drawing from more than 17,000 objects in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Cerámica de los Ancestros is a celebration of Central America’s diverse and dynamic ancestral heritage. For thousands of years, Central America has been home to vibrant civilizations, each with unique, sophisticated ways of life, value systems, and arts. The ceramics these peoples left behind, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, help tell the stories of these dynamic cultures and their achievements.
The early histories of Central American cultures follow similar paths. By 1500 BC, people had settled in large villages, where they cultivated, hunted, and gathered wild foods. Maize agriculture supported growing populations, and distinct forms of status, leadership, belief systems, and arts emerged regionally. Social and trade networks connected Central American communities to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean, sharing knowledge, technology, artworks, and systems of status and political organization.
Europeans’ arrival brought further changes. Native peoples have often struggled to maintain distinct identities and lifeways, or have merged with dominant cultures. Despite these changes, the legacy of Central America’s civilizations continues to resonate in their descendants’ lives and those of other Central Americans.
Cerámica de los Ancestros looks at seven regions representing distinct Central American cultural areas. These regions are today part of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Accompanied by an interactive website, a landmark publication, and a full schedule of educational and public programs, Cerámica de los Ancestros represents a pioneering effort by the Smithsonian to promote a better understanding of the creative pre-Contact cultures of Central America while engaging a new Latino audience.