The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

“Stand fast and suffer long”: The Ethics of Repatriation


1Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, 2School of Anthropology, University of Arizona

Saturday 10:15-10:30, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904) envisioned “A Nation’s Strength” in “Men who for truth and honor's sake, Stand fast and suffer long.” The repatriation of human remains to descendant communities is similarly based in ethical truths and upheld by the endurance of those who began this work and continue to facilitate the process today. Now over two decades old, federal and state legislation reinforce the moral imperative of respect for diverse cultural perspectives and work to facilitate the interests of multiple communities. However, upholding ethical responsibilities and executing the law is often contentious…but where should the necessary flexibility rest? In this presentation we discuss the 1) ethics and responsibilities that underlie repatriation, 2) legal mandates and applications, and 3) describe a protocol that facilitates respect for human remains and the interests of descendant communities, endeavors to preserve information, and is continually evolving to adapt to the individual and unique challenges of case-specific repatriation projects. In the end, the strength behind repatriation is its moral imperative and the maintenance of integrity in the process involved.

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