The dynamic discourse stimulated by 78 magnificent objects created by Native Americans over the years, now housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the responses of contemporary Native Americans to those objects forms the core of this book. As seen in these vibrant pages, the Museum is not a place of dead objects from the past. It is, rather, a place of people and ideas about human societies and cultures, a place of living, active objects, a place where the present can connect to the past.
The volume editors frame important issues and concepts—the nature of Native American identity in the past and present, indigenous sovereignty, the active destruction of Native American cultures and languages over the past half-millennium, along with their perseverance and strength to survive, and, finally, the power of ancestors. As Richard M. Leventhal, the Museum's Williams Director, notes in his Foreword, the Native American scholars and artists who contribute to this book are assisting the Museum in its attempt to become a more integral part of today's world. It is the preservation of ideas embodied within objects from the past and present that allows for the representation and strength of Native American identity.