Biden’s Latest Rules Lead American History Museum to Shut Indigenous American Displays

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Native American Exhibits to Undergo Major Changes

The American Museum of Natural History, located in New York City, has taken the decision to temporarily shut down two of its principal galleries, the Eastern Woodlands and the Great Plains, both of which showcase Native American artifacts. This move is a direct response to the recent policy changes put forth by the Biden administration, which mandate that museums should first obtain the consent of Native American tribes before displaying or conducting research on their cultural artifacts. This news comes from our sources at Reader Wall.

The Impact of New Policies on Museum Exhibitions

The primary objective of these policy changes is to facilitate the prompt return of numerous artifacts, ranging from Native American human remains to cultural and sacred objects, back to their respective indigenous communities. It allows these communities a greater say in the repatriation process, in turn scaling back on the rigorousness of the proof required for tribes to lay claim to these artifacts or remains. It is fast becoming evident that these shifts are causing a significant transformation in museums across the United States. Many have begun disassembling or obscuring certain exhibits in compliance with the newly revised provisions under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The Effect on Museum Employees and Tribal Communities

The implications of these policy changes are far-reaching, affecting not only museum staff members and operations but also having a significant impact on tribal communities. These communities may now face financial burdens as they could be flooded with a high volume of repatriation requests. Tribal representatives have conveyed their apprehensions regarding the potential inundation of requests and the profoundly disrespectful view towards Native ancestors that some people imply in their rhetoric surrounding these changes.

Promoting Respect for Indigenous Cultures and Humanity

Sean Decatur, the President of the American Museum of Natural History, has highlighted the critical need to respect Indigenous peoples and their shared humanity in these circumstances. The museum is currently in talks with various tribes, and it may not return some objects to display. Other prominent institutions, such as the Field Museum located in Chicago and the Cleveland Museum, have also begun aligning their practices with these policy changes. This action signifies a rapidly growing need among museums to reassess their relationships with and representation of Indigenous cultures.

Elijah Muhammad