Indigenous Peoples and Museums: Unraveling the Tensions

On behalf of several museums and organizations, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art  invite your participation in an Inter-Congress of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) on the topic Indigenous Peoples and Museums: Unraveling the Tensions.

For detailed information on the venue, submitting papers, and registering for the meeting, see or become a member of the Facebook group “Indigenous People and Museums: Unraveling the Tensions.”

The Inter-Congress will be from 22-25 June, 2011 in conjunction with the Eiteljorg Museum’s 17th Annual Indian Market and Festival, to be held 25-26 June 2011.

Student Prizes from Indianapolis InterCongress

The Inter-Congress Theme

Indigenous Peoples and Museums: Unraveling the Tensions covers a wide range of possible topics including:

  • Issues of representation
  • Museums operated by Indigenous peoples
  • Indigenous voice and Indigenous advisory boards
  • Treatment of sacred and other items
  • Conservation concerns, from dangerous chemicals in older objects to allowing for Indigenous views of conservation itself.
  • Repatriation of museum collections
  • Connecting Indigenous pasts and presents in museums
  • Proper treatment of Indigenous cultural and historical memory
  • Contested pasts
  • Museums and sites of conscience
  • Intellectual and spiritual concerns about Indigenous arts
  • Museum training for Indigenous people
  • New media/new technologies
  • Collaboration

Other themes will be considered as suggested or offered.


The Museum Studies program and Department of Anthropology at IUPUI, under the guidance of Larry Zimmerman, will serve as the primary organizer of the meeting, including local arrangements. Professor Zimmerman serves as the WAC Vice President and was organizer of the first WAC Inter-Congress in Vermillion , South Dakota , USA on Archaeological Ethics and the Treatment of the Dead in 1989.

In addition, the following organizations and museums have expressed an interest in serving as co-sponsors of the Inter-Congress. They include:

  • The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and American West
  • The Indiana State Museum
  • The Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
  • Conner Prairie
  • The University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana Museum Studies program
  • Indiana University-Bloomington Department of Anthropology, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology, Mathers Museum of Anthropology

We expect that other museums or organizations will join this group of co-sponsors.

Indigenous Involvement

There are no federally recognized Native American tribes in Indiana*, but the Eiteljorg Museum, a key sponsor, works closely with a national Native American Advisory Council, which has a Miami (the dominant, but federally unrecognized, local group) representative on it. These advisors are aware of the offer and supportive. The museum also works closely with the other unrecognized tribes, as do several of the partners ( Indiana State Museum , Conner Prairie) to the Inter-Congress. The Pottawattamie, Miami , Lenape, and Wea co-planned a major permanent exhibit with the Eiteljorg.** The Inter-Congress is actively engaging these groups as partners in the planning process and execution of the Inter-Congress. Also involved will be Native American Indian Voices of Indiana, an organization that involves people from may Indian nations living in Indiana.

Proposed Dates

The date is still being arranged, but probably will be a three-day meeting held around the last week of May or first week of June 2010.


Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.


Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the United States with a major airport and the facilities of any modern world city. The primary location of the Inter-Congress will be on the IUPUI campus and at the nearby Eiteljorg Museum . IUPUI and the Eiteljorg are within an easy 10 minute walk along a lovely canal from the Indianapolis City Center . The city center has many hotels at a range of prices for those not wishing to stay in university housing. The Eiteljorg is one of several museums in White River State Park , a first-rate cultural complex which also serves as home to the White River Botanical Gardens and the Indianapolis Zoo. All are within a 10 minute walk of IUPUI. Transportation to events at outlying sites will be by bus.

Additional Possibilities

Excursions: There are numerous possibilities for excursions before, during, and after the Inter-Congress. Several major cities are within a 3 hour drive of Indianapolis including Cincinnati , Ohio , and Louisville , Kentucky . All have major museums and other historic sites. Cahokia Mounds, the largest pre-contact city in North America, is now a World Heritage site, about a 5 hour drive from Indianapolis near St. Louis , Missouri . Angel Mounds, a site from the same time period as Cahokia is about 3 hours from the city and is a state park with a major interpretive center. SunWatch Indian Village , about 3 hours away in Dayton , Ohio , is a National Historic Landmark. It is a reconstruction of an ancient American Indian settlement and by 2008 will open a new interpretive center. Within 40 minutes is the Stone Age Institute, a world class research center into human origins and early technology. Mammoth Cave National Park , a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, is about 3 hours away.

Events: We expect that there will be several receptions and tours hosted by museum co-sponsors. Some of these will include “cultural” activities including Native American song and dance.

Dissemination of Conference Materials

We hope to be able to do a live broadcast of all academic sessions using Internet 2 (I2) [IUPUI is a national center for Internet 2]. We hope to be able to offer or help to arrange the use of realtime interactive sessions for those who cannot attend, including the possibility of paper presentations and discussion.

Depending on WAC’s wishes, we hope to see publication of some papers in one of WAC’s series, but the possibility is also open for publication by the Eiteljorg Museum.

Web Sites of Organizations or Sites Mentioned Above



Museum Studies:


Eiteljorg Museum:

Indiana State Museum:

Indianapolis Museum of Art:

Children’s Museum:

Conner Prairie:

White River State Park:

The University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana:

Indiana University-Bloomington:

Department of Anthropology:

Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology:

Mathers Museum of Anthropology:

Stone Age Institute:

Sun Watch:

Cahokia Mounds:

Angel Mounds:

Mammoth Cave National Park:

Department of Anthropology, 434 Cavanaugh, IUPUIFor questions or additional information contact:

Larry J. Zimmerman
Department of Anthropology
434 Cavanaugh, IUPUI
425 University Blvd.
Indianapolis , IN 46202
Tel: 1-317-274-2383

**Mihtoseemionki, the people’s place. Click here to take a virtual tour, then on Second Floor, then on the interactive map, click on Mihtoseenionki. See also the teachers guide for much more detail.