Arriving among the other immigrants into North America during the 19th century were fossil hunters. Seeking out dinosaur fossils, many of them trespassed onto Sioux lands when they discovered that their territory was rich with them. These fossils were improperly and unethically collected and put on display at numerous universities. They were even used to help create the Peabody Museum at Yale University. It is important to note that not just fossils were taken from the lands, Native American burial sites were desecrated for their skulls.
In “Dinosaurs and Indians,” author Lawrence Bradley, raised by an Oglala Lakota stepfather, addresses this issue from the perspective of the Native Americans. Based upon his extensive historical research he writes this dissertation to prove the importance of this matter needing to undergo critical review because it is quite clear that these vertebrate fossils are natural resources that were dispossessed from indigenous tribes. In this text he presents maps and numerous photographs of fossils on display at museums that were taken from these lands.
The fossil hunting mainly covers a period from 1847 to the present. It wasn’t until recent decades that more strenuous efforts have been made to develop appropriate ethical protocols for procuring fossils from the Native American lands. The author would like to see tribal governments continue to be involved with the complete procurement process to ensure that they are aware of exactly what methodologies the fossil hunters are utilizing. This also allows the tribe to define who the owner of the fossil resources are. By helping tribes manage their own paleontological resources negative consequences will be avoided.
The knowledge that I gained from reading “Dinosaurs and Indians” by Lawrence W. Bradley is extensive. It is disappointing to see that those involved with paleontology, which is a fascinating science, participated in disrespecting indigenous peoples in pursuit of another one of their natural resources. It is a relief to see that changes are being made to prevent this from occurring again. I highly recommend that people with a passion for paleontology and/or Native American studies read this dissertation.