Actualizing Land Acknowledgments: The Fowler Museum's Commitment to Indigenous Collaborations

SITES

Norine Holguin

8/16/20232 min read

The Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility at UCLA has played a crucial role in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) since 1990. Through decades of collaboration with local Indigenous tribes, the Fowler Museum has prioritized initiatives that promote knowledge, respect, and understanding of Indigenous peoples, especially those whose ancestral land we occupy. This blog post delves into the museum's efforts to actualize land acknowledgments, foster meaningful collaborations, and celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

UCLA's Land Acknowledgment and Collaborations with Indigenous Peoples

The land acknowledgment at UCLA pays tribute to the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples, the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, So. Channel Islands). This acknowledgment is the result of extensive collaborations between Curator of Archaeology Wendy Teeter, UCLA's American Indian Studies Center, and local Indigenous tribes, including Fernandeno/Tataviam, Chumash, Juaneno/Acjachamen, Serrano, Luiseno/Payómkawichum, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Paiute/Nuwu, and Kumeyaay.

NAGPRA and Repatriation: Protecting Ancestral Remains and Cultural Heritage

NAGPRA, enacted in 1990, gave Native American tribal descendants the right to protect, care for, and reinter their ancestors' remains and sacred objects. The Fowler Museum took this opportunity to engage in conversations about Indigenous history, cultural heritage, and reciprocal relationships with tribes. Over the years, 98% of the Native American ancestral remains in UCLA's custody have been repatriated.

Empowering Indigenous Voices: MILA and CoAH Exhibitions

The Fowler Museum collaborated with Professor Mishuana Goeman to develop two online curated exhibitions, Mapping Indigenous LA (MILA) and Carrying Our Ancestors Home (CoAH). MILA is a community-based website that allows tribal members to share their stories and cultural geography through maps, photos, texts, and videos. CoAH focuses on the history of repatriation at UCLA and offers examples of repatriation best practices. These exhibitions amplify living communities' voices and correct misconceptions about Indigenous traditions.

Collaborative Projects and Cultural Heritage Preservation

The Fowler Museum continuously works on collaborative projects that support Indigenous initiatives and foster meaningful partnerships. The Tribal Learning Community & Educational Exchange (TLCEE) was created to bring tribal knowledge bearers to UCLA and facilitate connections with faculty, staff, and students. The Pimu Catalina Island Archaeology Project (PCIAP) was launched to reinterpret Catalina Island's archaeology from a Tongva perspective and train the next generation in Indigenous Archaeology.

Looking to the Future: Supporting Indigenous Curators and Exhibitions

The Fowler Museum aims to see more Native and BIPOC curators creating exhibitions and providing guidance on the interpretation of their cultural heritage. The museum will continue to support online exhibition work, expand Carrying Our Ancestors Home, and promote collaborations with Indigenous communities. Through these endeavors, the Fowler Museum remains committed to honoring the ancestors, past, present, and emerging.

Conclusion

The Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility stands as a beacon of hope and progress in honoring Indigenous peoples and their ancestral land. Through collaborative efforts, land acknowledgments, repatriation initiatives, and culturally sensitive exhibitions, the museum showcases its deep respect for Indigenous cultures. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, let us be inspired by the Fowler Museum's commitment to fostering understanding, inclusivity, and preservation of Indigenous cultural heritage for generations to come.

Citation:

Teeter, Wendy, et al. “Behind the Scenes with the Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility: Actualizing Land Acknowledgments.” Fowler Museum at UCLA, 17 June 2021, fowler.ucla.edu/actualizing-land-acknowledgments/.

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