[UCP Books]: Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits
“Colwell’s book raises provocative questions about who owns the past, and is surely an important work for curators—or anyone—interested in America’s treatment of its cultural legacy.”
Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits
Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture
US Publication: March 15, 2017 / International Publication: April 10, 2017
Cloth ISBN-13: 978-0-226-29899-3 / $30.00 / £22.50
Five decades ago, Native American leaders launched a crusade to force museums to return their sacred objects and allow them to rebury their kin. Today, hundreds of tribes use the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to help them recover their looted heritage from museums across the country. As senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Chip Colwell has navigated firsthand the questions of how to weigh the religious freedom of Native Americans against the academic freedom of scientists and whether the emptying of museum shelves elevates human rights or destroys a common heritage. Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits offers Colwell’s personal account of the process of repatriation, following the trail of four objects as they were created, collected, and ultimately returned to their sources: a sculpture that is a living god, the scalp of a massacre victim, a ceremonial blanket, and a skeleton from a tribe considered by some to be extinct. These specific stories reveal a dramatic process that involves not merely obeying the law, but negotiating the blurry lines between identity and morality, spirituality and politics.
Chip Colwell is the senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. His work has been highlighted in such venues as the New York Times, Denver Post, Huffington Post, and C-SPAN, and his books include Living Histories: Native Americans and Southwestern Archaeology and Inheriting the Past: The Making of Arthur C. Parker and Indigenous Archaeology. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or firstname.lastname@example.org