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Cultivating a NAGPRA Community of Practice at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC)

by Jennifer Bedell, RaeLynn Butler, Amanda Roberts Thompson, and LeeAnne Wendt

On November 7, 2019, 80 individuals came together in Jackson, Mississippi to talk about opportunities for collaboration, research, engagement, and how to improve NAGPRA implementation. The workshop, Cultivating a Community of Practice for Southeastern NAGPRA Practitioners, was part of the 76th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC). Hoping to initiate, develop, and sustain working relationships between practitioners of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the event was a first step in fostering a NAGPRA community of practice within the southeastern US.

The interactive workshop rotated attendees every 20 minutes through thematic groups of Tribes, National NAGPRA, Museums/Institutions, Federal/State, and Research. Experienced practitioners representing tribes, federal agencies, curators and collections managers, and agencies and institutions considered to be museums, facilitated each of these groups. They answered questions from the attendees, whose experience ranged from very little to those who are more heavily involved in NAGPRA implementation. Discussions included the importance of reevaluating and updating NAGPRA Inventories and Summaries as well as building and maintaining relationships between tribes, institutions, and agencies.

During lunch and before ending the workshop, the attendees and facilitators evaluated the workshop and participated in an open discussion about the day. This included thoughts about what did or did not work for the workshop as well as suggestions in planning for a NAGPRA event at SEAC 2020 including a separate event geared towards students. The workshop ended with a gracious gift of a handmade basket by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the facilitators of the workshop.

The workshop was organized by Amanda Roberts Thompson (University of Georgia), RaeLynn Butler (Muscogee (Creek Nation), LeeAnne Wendt (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), and Jennifer Bedell (Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources) and sponsored by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation; Laboratory of Archaeology, University of Georgia; the SEAC Native American Affairs committee.

A special thanks to the Facilitators and Volunteers: Dr. Tim Baumann (University of Tennessee) John Beaver (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) Bryant Celestine (Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas) Raynella Fontenot (Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana) Melanie O'Brien (National NAGPRA) Kirk Perry (Chickasaw Nation) Dr. Brett Riggs (Western Carolina University) Dr. Helen Robbins (Field Museum) Alexandria Smith (USACE-Mobile District) Emman Spain (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) Dr. Ben Steere (Western Carolina University) Dr. Jayne-Leigh Thomas (Indiana University) Dr. Ian Thompson (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) Dr. Victor Thompson (University of Georgia) Dr. Ryan Wheeler (Peabody Museum)

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