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When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky


A deliciously strange and daringly original novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist ...
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What questions does the novel suggest about archaeology, ownership, and the history of museums and collections?

Created: 10/18/21

Replies: 9

Posted Oct. 18, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2754

What questions does the novel suggest about archaeology, ownership, and the history of museums and collections?

Two eventually learns that Glendale is built upon a cemetery. How does she feel about this? Who was involved in the desecration of Noel Cemetery? What do they remove from the graves and what do they do with the items they find? How did Mr. Shackleford view his own involvement with this, and how did this change "as he'd approached the twilight of his life" (102)?

When did he realize this alteration in his thinking? What questions does the novel suggest about archaeology, ownership, and the history of museums and collections?


Posted Oct. 23, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janines

Join Date: 11/21/16

Posts: 46

RE: What questions does the novel ...

I think that the book points out that willful disregard of indigenous people's religious sites for purposes of settling the land rewrites history in favor of the "conquerors," showing a lack of respect and ignorance not to mention a total disregard for the humanity of the conquered. That's why no one in the book remembers anything about the indigenous tribes who lived on the land where the story takes place. While museums may help preserve history, it's still not the same as preserving the actual site where the relics should be. After all, shouldn't the Elgin Marbles really be back at the Parthenon, from which they were stolen?


Posted Oct. 23, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RuthEh

Join Date: 07/31/17

Posts: 55

RE: What questions does the novel ...

I was surprised how the local people robbed the graves and then didn't remember what tribe was buried in the mounds. It really bothered Two Feathers about the graveyard especially knowing it was Indians and no one seemed to care.


Posted Oct. 23, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
skagitgrits's Gravatar
skagitgrits

Join Date: 02/24/17

Posts: 38

RE: What questions does the novel ...

The question of repatriation of tribal goods and lands is certainly brought into the light with this portrayal of a sensitive and timely subject. The tribes continue to fight to this day to have sacred lands returned to them and to protect those subject to exploitation from corporate entities. I agree with earlier comments about the lack of accurate historical accounts and the total disregard for tribal sensibilities and culture. This is well done through out the book.


Posted Oct. 23, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
skagitgrits's Gravatar
skagitgrits

Join Date: 02/24/17

Posts: 38

RE: Repatriation

The question of repatriation of tribal goods and lands is certainly brought into the light with this portrayal of a sensitive and timely subject. The tribes continue to fight to this day to have sacred lands returned to them and to protect those subject to exploitation from corporate entities. I agree with earlier comments about the lack of accurate historical accounts and the total disregard for tribal sensibilities and culture. This is well done through out the book.


Posted Oct. 23, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gerrieb

Join Date: 09/03/19

Posts: 125

RE: What questions does the novel ...

First, I find it interesting that the true villain in the story had an anthropology major. True is disturbed by the revelation that there was a cemetery on the site and upset that the graves were disturbed. Shackleford and some of the other employees were involved in plundering the graves. Shackleford regrets his part in disturbing the graves and he realized this while standing in the entrance to the cave by the grave. While some people sold the items they stole, others kept them as trophies or used them, as in the case of pipes.
The novel humanizes the long dead of others. It provides a much needed perspective on the practice of disturbing, collecting and displaying artifacts especially human remains. Nearly every month there is a news article on a museum returning stolen or misappropriated artifacts and I agree with Skagitgrits above.


Posted Oct. 24, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeh

Join Date: 06/15/11

Posts: 195

RE: What questions does the novel ...

I think it points out how much of our American history has been lost over the years by
people not having regard for lives that have gone before theirs. We now see that
history can be rewritten by a few people who choose to disregard facts and just focus
on their own opinions. It is so important for people living in each time period to document what is actually happening each day of their lives, how they personally feel about those activities and keep those records for our children and grandchildren.


Posted Nov. 11, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 406

RE: What questions does the novel ...

So many questions come to mind. This is not just an American issue, but a world-wide issue. It wasn't until 1960 - 1970 that the professional archaeologist established ethical guidelines, and these vary from country to country. The bones of 1,000 Native Americans remain in storerooms even though There are federal mandates for repatriation. For native Americans this is both a religious and human rights issue.
Advances in DNA studies has added to the problem because scientist can now learn so much more about the past.
For me it became a personal issue when I found the headstone of a baby girl Elizabeth, died 1889. It was by the curb for garbage pick up as the property had been sold to condo builders and all those buried were just disregarded. No one could give me answers to what happened to the bodies, were they relocated? No one knew or seemed to care. Elizabeth's headstone is in my garden next to a shrub of baby roses. Since then I have learned that there are 20,000 bodies "laid to rest" under Washington Square Park in NYC. Do they Rest in Peace?"


Posted Nov. 15, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BuffaloGirl

Join Date: 01/13/18

Posts: 127

RE: What questions does the novel ...

The book points out the entitlement that white society felt toward land, regardless of whether or not indigenous peoples were buried in a specific locale. It also pointed out their utter disregard for indigenous peoples. I can remember going on a class trip 50+ years ago to Fort Larned, KS before it became National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service. A local family owned the site the Fort had been on and a museum and several buildings to which admission was charged. One of the exhibits was an “Indian burial ground.” There were several skeletons exposed in dirt and all the bone surfaces had been painted numerous times with varnish. Even as an 8 year old kid it made an impression on me because I knew in my kid mind that dead people shouldn’t be treated that way.


Posted Nov. 21, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Jessica F

Join Date: 05/23/20

Posts: 109

RE: What questions does the novel ...

Reene, that is a horrific story. So kind of you to keep baby Elizabeth's memory safe!

Due to the passing of time, as the world continues to build, we will continue to find graves and burial plots. It is so important to acknowledge that they were human beings. They need to be treated with respect. I'd hope any findings would be carefully examined and perhaps next of kin made aware; if possible.


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