Grassroots Social Action and the National Museum of the American Indian
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CitationEdwards, Alison Jane. 2015. Grassroots Social Action and the National Museum of the American Indian. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractMuseums are educational institutions that, historically, have often reflected dominant-culture biases in their treatment of religious artifacts and human remains from Native societies (Bal, 1996; Bieder, 1986, 1996; Bilosi & Zimmerman, 1997; Bray, 1995; Cornell, 1988; Edwards & Sullivan, 2004).
In 1989, the National Museum of the American Indian Act became law after years of sustained activism to protect basic human, cultural and civil rights for Native peoples, including the rights to religious freedom and equal protections for the sanctity of Native graves and Native dead. The Act established the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), recognized Native rights to specific categories of sensitive materials, and required Native participation and agency in the new organization, whose mission includes supporting the health and vitality of contemporary Native cultures.
This dissertation is a case study of the grassroots social action of Native Americans that uses Charles Vert Willie’s theory of grassroots social action to illuminate how and why the grassroots social action of Native Americans was successful in fulfilling the goal to reform museum practice through the enactment of federal law (Willie, Ridini, & Willard, 2008). My overarching research interest is how public educational institutions can transform themselves in response to the legislative demands and court orders for social justice initiated by grassroots population groups.
This historic case, examined through the lens of a well-formulated theory and involving the agency of grassroots social action and the transformation of museum policy, is of value and interest to many types of grassroots movements, both in education and in other social systems. In particular, knowledge of what obstacles activists faced and may continue to face, what strategies have successfully been employed to meet these obstacles, and what lessons have been learned by those involved in this unique case, can be of value to others who similarly seek to transform institutions in order to promote civil and human rights.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:16461039