Author documents trail of Native American artificats; coming to Bookworm July 20
If You Go …
What: Author Chip Colwell discusses the returning of sacred objects and artifacts to Native American tribes.
When: Thursday, July 20, at 6 p.m.
Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.
Cost: $10, includes light appetizers.
More information: Visit www.bookwormofedwards.com.
“When someone goes to a museum, they tend to take it for granted. They do not ask themselves, where do all of these artifacts come from?” — Author Unknown.
Today, at The Bookworm of Edwards, expert Chip Colwell will discuss his new book, “Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits.” His research analyzes the complexity of who owns the past and the sacred objects that physically connect humans to history.
“The biggest reaction the book inspires is shock, about the history and the program,” said Colwell, who is also the senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
“Plunder Skulls and Stolen Spirits” follows the trail of four Native American sacred objects as they were created, collected and ultimately returned to their source. During the process, the reader is introduced to the battle over the course of history.
“Everything in a museum has a history,” Colwell said. “The majority of artifacts have dark histories — many from colonialism and war. The book brings a lot of this to light, showing the rights that were violated against Native Americans to collect pieces.”
Five decades ago, Native Americans began the uphill battle to reclaim their artifacts and human remains from the museums that have kept them on display. Through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Colwell has been navigating the process and dealing with the side effects of repatriation. Returning artifacts to native communities combines problems of the past, present and future.
“Anthropology is the intersection of history and politics, law and morality, science and spirituality,” he said. “First you have to discover the legalities of how the remain came into the collection.”
Looking forward, curators such as Colwell ask themselves, “If something goes back home, how will it be used, how will it be valued? The process is endlessly fascinating because it bridges diverse problems.”