by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children. … Ancient Proverb
The Indigenous Worldview: An Introduction
Who should claim the rights of indigenous artifacts? Natural history museums before 1990 often had exhibits that included artifacts and possibly skeletons of Native Americans; the tribes could claim no ownership rights to artifacts that were taken from their land. Their burial grounds were dug up by archaeologists, and the findings were dispersed to museums across the country and world.
Many artifacts were either purchased, often below the value of the object, or stolen, with little legal recourse for Native groups. Although these exhibits may be informative to the museum-goer, many Native Americans resented these exhibits being used in this way.
This changed in 1990 when the federal government passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which gave them the legal authority to reclaim artifacts from federally funded museums. Museums are often asked to return objects that are sacred to particular groups, who use them in present-day ceremonies. Institutions also must give back artifacts that have “ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself.” Tribes can claim ownership of the objects, and if a review determines their claim is justified, ownership of the artifact is given to the tribes.
The question remains, “Who should own Native American artifacts?” The essence of the
question is also being asked globally. Should Egypt be able to request the return of their plundered antiquities from the British Museum in London or the Berlin Museum? It is not the purpose of this example to answer this question but to show that how one answers this question reflects, in part, one’s particular worldview.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95