Ah....it’s summertime. Time to get out to the lake, drop a hook in the water, get a tan, relax, and enjoy the heat. Time to hit the road and see the country by the millions. In Indian Country, this is the time for scores of college kids and their anthropology professors to invade burial grounds and dig, dig, dig to pull out our families’ bones, cart them off to far away places, and tell us how our ancestors lived. After generations of this horrid practice, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990 to put an end to this. Bear in mind it has long been a felony to go into anyone else’s graveyard and dig up remains.
Implicit in the act was the declaration that all bones currently held by the tens of thousands in places like the Smithsonian and Universities all over the country, which could be culturally affiliated, must be returned. Furthermore any bones found in the future that could be culturally affiliated would likewise be returned to said dead person’s relatives.
A funny thing happened as of the passing of NAGPRA: First several universities fought tooth and nail to hang on to “their” bones and are to this day slowly and begrudgingly returning them to their rightful resting places. Second, it seems very few bones have since been found that were less than ten thousand years old. Like flipping on a light switch, most every bone found since seems to be determined to be more than ten thousand years old. See if they’re more than ten thousand years old, due to presumed migrations and relocation, bones cannot be culturally affiliated. How convenient. Academia loves to own their Indian bones.
Part and parcel of all this knowledge was fitting together a fantasy about Indian migrations. Seems Indians absolutely had to come from somewhere else. If everyone here is an immigrant then the holocaust and genocide inflicted on Indian people wasn’t a case of invaders killing Indigenous people, it’s a case of one immigrant simply killing another. Guilt assuaged. The problem is, they’ve never been able to make what evidence they’ve found fit their theory. So the anthros just keep filing things away, keeping hush hush what doesn’t fit into their nice little puzzle. Vine Deloria, jr. wrote extensively about this fiction in Red Earth, White Lies.
But never underestimate the motivations of a racism-influenced scientist. Now come a study published in the journal NATURE done by no other than a Harvard geneticist trying to get DNA evidence to support the now tired and never proven Bering Strait idea. Now, it seems, it’s a tragedy played out in three parts. The new and improved story says there were three migrations sandwiched around the last ice age. The earliest being some 30,000 years ago. How exciting.
I guess the 40,000 year old settlements in the grand canyon basin are one step closer to being Bering Strait-ized. One day soon they’ll have their story straight about how people not only walked and settled from present day Asia to the tip of South America, but founded advanced cultures along the way, only for many of them to later up and move back northward. The Cherokee, Hopi, and still other tribes trace their cultural roots back to Mexico. I can hardly wait for the sequel.
This reads like fiction, because it is. It's racist and small-minded fiction. I guess some things will never end. We Indians have grown used to being told not only where we came from, but to go back there. Academia still retains much of its racist ideas. This place is our home, and we are Indigenous to this land. The very ground here is made up of our bones and our blood. Long after stories about the Bering Strait and migrations are forgotten, we will still be here. We have always been here. We always will be.