14.30 Of, By, and For Which People?: Government and Contested Heritage
Two government-owned and managed heritage sites in Indiana, USA, offer an opportunity to explore the role of governing in adjudicating the competing paradigms of value and contested uses. Strawtown Koteewi is a Hamilton County park and Mounds State Park is part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ state-wide park system. Each site has come under scrutiny in recent years. Strawtown Koteewi is one of the most significant sites for understanding the history of Native peoples in the area, and after almost a decade of archaeological excavations several Native American groups, under the auspices of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), initiated repatriation processes for the recovery of human remains and some objected to the on-going archaeological research. At Mounds State Park a proposed dam project intended to ensure a safe and plentiful water supply and to spur economic development in the area was fought by a coalition of citizens. In each of these cases, the government entities had to navigate the political landscapes of competing claims about the sites.
These case studies expose the fissures between authorized heritage discourse and the paradigms of meaning among the diverse constituencies of the sites and they highlight the tenuous position of public governance in privileging competing cultural, economic, and social interests. While not unique, the state and county agencies’ positions within these fields of power and their strategic choices reveal some of the barriers and constraints that limit the possibilities of “what heritage can change.” Finally, the role of Native American tribal governments in these contested sites highlights the enduring legacies of settler colonial politics in the control and interpretation of indigenous heritage.