In the larger scope of history this is a small thing. In the smaller scope of conscience, it may be the biggest thing we have ever done.
-- Congressman Morris Udall ( 1990), sponsor of the NAGPRA legislation
THE 1971 CONFRONTATION in Minnesota triggered a nationwide dialogue over whether archaeologists should dig up dead Indians. At the time, many tribes seemed lukewarm about the issue unless it affected them directly. A number of tribes, including Zuni, Navajo, Makah, and Pequot, operated their own archaeological research programs, and they were accustomed to making sure that archaeologists serve the tribal interest.
In the late eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the dead have no rights" and two centuries later, some anthropologists are reiterating the same message: "I explicitly assume that no living culture, religion, interest groups, or biological population has any moral or legal right to the exclusive use or regulation of ancient human skeletons since all humans are members of a single species," writes Douglas Ubelaker, a bioarchaeologist with the Smithsonian Institution. "Ancient skeletons are the remnants of