Hopi Renewal and (Ritualized) Performance under American Law

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 Field Museum hrobbins@fieldmuseum.org
  • 2 Hopi Cultural Preservation Office lkuwanwisiwma@hopi.nsn.us
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ABSTRACT

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.

Contributor Notes

HELEN A. ROBBINS is Repatriation Director at the Field Museum, where she has coordinated domestic and international repatriation activities for the past 15 years. She evaluates and conducts empirical research on repatriation claims and is actively involved in consultation with, and outreach to, Native American groups. She is also involved in the ongoing development of museum policy and procedures regarding, among other matters, international repatriation and collaborative curation initiatives. She has been actively consulting with the Hopi tribe on a range of issues including repatriation, conservation, exhibition, and the respectful care of human remains for more than 13 years. E-mail: hrobbins@fieldmuseum.org

LEIGH KUWANWISIWMA has been Director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office for 27 years. He is a member of the Greasewood clan and is from the village of Bacavi. He has been at the forefront of repatriation for many years and has established collaborative relationships with multiple institutions. He has served on the Arizona Archaeology Commission, the Museum of Northern Arizona Board of Trustees, and the Arizona State Museum Tribal Advisory Council. The most important responsibility he carries out is representing the cultural and religious interests of the 12 Hopi villages, more than 50 clans, and 18 religious societies. E-mail: lkuwanwisiwma@hopi.nsn.us

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