And a law called NAGPRA.

From the 1940s until the 1970s, one of the most well-known exhibits in Mesa Verde's museum contained a human body - the mummified remains of a young woman known as Esther. 

Even today, people have vivid memories of Esther. Visitors to the park often ask why she was removed from display, and where she went.

The dead aren’t collectibles. They aren’t objects to own. That’s true no matter whose ancestors you’re talking about.
— Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Hopi

In this episode, we'll hear Esther's story and learn about the long pattern of mistreatment it represents, where thousands of Native Americans were removed from their graves and carted off to museums. And we’ll learn about how tribal advocates and a powerful federal law have changed the trajectory in recent years, returning Esther and thousands of others to rest.

We'll hear from Leigh Kuwanwisiwma of the Hopi Tribe, Kathy Fine-Dare of Fort Lewis College, Julie Coleman of the San Juan National Forest, and Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo.




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Read More

"Interpreting an Absence: Esther's Legacy at Mesa Verde National Park," Journal of the West, Kathleen S Fine-Dare and Bryanna N. Durkee, 2012

"A proper reburial at Mesa Verde," The Denver Post, April 2006

"Anasazi skeletons to be reburied," Deseret News, April 1998


Watch More

C-SPAN November, 2004

 Panelists discuss the return of human remains and funerary objects to Native American lands.


School for Advanced Research: IARC Speaker Series 2016

The School for Advanced Research has a series of panel discussions related to NAGPRA posted on YouTube.

This is the first of four panel discussions in the 2016 IARC Speaker Series: "Forging New Landscapes in Cultural Stewardship and Repatriation," a Partnership between the School for Advanced Research and Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts.

Keynote session: NAGPRA Then and Now Moderator: Dr. Bruce Bernstein Speakers: Regis Pecos, Dr. Joe Watkins, Brian Vallo This keynote session explores the state of repatriation prior to the 1990 NAGPRA policy, and asks the questions of what has happened since then and what must happen now. Filmed on March 17, 2016 by John Sadd.