Associate Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies, Public Scholar of Collections and Community Curation, Adjunct Associate Professor of Native American and Indigenous Studies
Department of Anthropology
Museum Studies Program
RECOVERING THE PAST: A Collaborative Approach to Recovery and Repatriation.
A significant and central aspect of my research agenda is an ongoing collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Art Theft Program/Art Crime Team which resulted in the recovery of several thousand objects of cultural heritage. On April 1, 2014, after months of quiet investigative work, I accompanied FBI agents as they knocked on the door of a “collector” in rural Indiana. This investigation set the stage for what has become the FBI’s largest single recovery of Native American human remains, cultural objects and foreign artifacts to date. EVIDENCE-BASED RESEARCH: My research on the antiquities trade, looting, repatriation and collaborative efforts have both generated knowledge and utilized scholarly evidence to develop a practice that redefines how law enforcement deals with the sensitive area of repatriating Indigenous ancestral remains and cultural heritage worldwide. INTER/CROSS DISCIPLINARY RESEARCH: Because of my research in cultural heritage field and many decades of repatriation experience (foreign and domestic), my students and I continue to work this case and other federal investigations. I conduct provenience research, and serve as a liaison between the US Government and Indigenous groups around the world. This work is centered in a collaborative approach that encourages regular and ongoing cross disciplinary exchange with Indigenous community members, government agencies, scholars and content experts around the world. My cross disciplinary research aligns with the goals and core values of the IUPUI Anthropology Department and Museum Studies Program, while simultaneously informing the ways I teach students to be civically engaged through applied learning. Since the start of this investigation, my students have worked this case and learned first-hand the importance of leadership that integrates a collaborative, inclusive approach to cultural heritage. Students apply skills and anthropological insight to non-academic settings. In spite of immense obstacles (students sign non-disclosure agreements), this learning experience is unparalleled. In March 2016, Preventive Conservation students conducted provenance research and prepared objects for repatriation to their country of origin. Since 2014, over four dozen IUPUI students and alumni have played a role. https://news.iu.edu/stories/2019/03/iupui/inside/07-liberal-arts-faculty-students-assist-repatriation-massive-artifact-collection.html GOAL ORIENTED RESEARCH FOR THE BETTERMENT OF EVERYDAY LIFE: From this ongoing research, my second monograph Promises to the Dead: The FBI’s Largest Antiquities Case (working title) has grown. This publication highlights the moral and ethical issues surrounding cultural heritage protection and the shared sense of responsibility this investigation engendered among stakeholders. As an anthropologist, I am in a unique position to facilitate meaningful collaborations between community, government and academic institutions in issues of voice and representation. Following an emotional reburial of ancestral remains at South Dakota’s Crow Creek Sioux Reservation back in 2017, an Arikara elder stated that “many of the elders were hesitant about involving the FBI and University because of our past history with these agencies, but we found these people to be respectful and accommodating.” The Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota concluded his remarks saying “the tribes and non-Natives have come a long way in respectfully learning from each other.” THIS is evidence of translational research that indeed makes a difference in people's lives!