Skip to main content

Contaminated Collections - Issues for Tribes and Museums

“In 2001, the National Park Service awarded California State Parks a $41,635 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) grant to plan and implement a series of workshops throughout the state to bring together tribal members and museum staff to examine the issue of contaminated collections.  Robert Stearns, National NAGPRA Program Manager wrote: "The National NAGPRA Program and the NAGPRA Review Committee are concerned about the past use of pesticides to preserve collections, and the potential effects that these chemicals may still have. National NAGPRA funded this project because of its educational focus and collaborative approach, with tribal representatives and museum staff working together on this important issue." The result was a true cross-cultural collaboration involving federal and state agencies, two contractors, California Indian people from numerous tribes and staff from a variety of museums. Our common bond was deep concern about this important issue.


Goals And Objectives

The project’s goals were to:


  • Inform tribes and museum workers how and why pesticides were used on the objects.
  • Clarify the nature of these pesticides, the kinds of pests that they targeted, and to understand the kinds of health problems that can be caused by their use.
  • Explore ways for tribes to safely use contaminated objects.
  • Identify methods by which testing can be made compatible with Indian beliefs and traditions.”