Facing the past for action in the future: Cultural survival in Native America

Kelly McHugh

Abstract

This article attempts to generate awareness regarding the challenges that Native Nations in the United States face in protecting their cultural heritage. Cultural sites are vulnerable due to both man-made issues such as resource extraction, tourism, development, as well as natural disasters and forces of nature. Statutory obligations contained in federal law have not offered full protection due to a lack of true consultation and consent with tribes. Cultural institutions charged with the stewardship of Native American cultural patrimony should make consultation, collaboration, and consensus a priority, as collections are linked to the people and places from which they originate. While Native organizations are working to facilitate connection and raise awareness of these preservation and protection efforts, the conservation community has an obligation to do its part to ensure that the same effort generated globally and domestically is applied to the protection of Native American cultural heritage.

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