Hopi Renewal and (Ritualized) Performance under American Law

in Museum Worlds
Restricted access

Religious practice, in all its forms, is intrinsic to the Hopi way of being. The Hopi people have performed rituals of balance and renewal continuously for thousands of years, but the collection and removal of ceremonial items have created a spiritual void. Repatriation legislation has given hope that items can come home, go back to ritual use, and, simply, by the act of their return, nurture the Hopi spirit. Paradoxically, legal and bureaucratic requirements in federal legislation such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) both constrain and subvert Hopi authority over their own repatriation efforts and the items returned. To engage in repatriation, the Hopi must participate in what have become highly ritualized processes outlined in law, as well as submit to a museum’s procedural requirements, also legitimated in law. In this way, the repatriation process ultimately reproduces and reinforces the existing power of the nation-state.