Liana Aghajanian is an independent journalist whose work explores the issues, people, and places that often remain hidden on the fringes of society. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, Foreign Policy and Al Jazeera America. Her reporting has received support from a number of fellowships and grants, including the Metlife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, the Hrant Dink Foundation’s Turkey-Armenia Journalism Fellowship, and the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University. In 2015, she was awarded the second Write A House permanent writing residency and currently writes and lives in Detroit.
Project Description: For over a century, Native American bones and other sacred, cultural artifacts have been dug up, stolen and sold, some of them ending up in museums or research institutes, where scientists sought to study them without input or permission from the communities they came from. The 1990 Native American Graves and Repatriation Act aimed to ease the lasting impact of that legacy, requiring federal agencies and institutions to return items back to tribes, but the process has been slow, and the relationship between Native American tribes and scientists—many of whom opposed the Act—have been dominated by mistrust and legal battles. But recently, that relationship has begun to change, with members of tribes and scientists working together to heal these rifts as well as the generational trauma brought on by this long era of mistreatment and disenfranchisement of the indigenous people. This project explores the emerging reconciliatory collaboration with Native American tribes and scientists, how indigenous communities are reclaiming the bones of their ancestors, the way researchers are using technology and alternative approaches to compassionately study artifacts, and the challenges that remain in healing the trauma brought on by these “bones of contention.”
In her own words: “In both my personal life as an immigrant and refugee, and professional life as a journalist, rebuilding and resiliency have always been a constant presence. These experiences have made me strongly believe in the power of restorative narratives and the impact they have on communities; they show the complexity of the world in unexpected and compassionate ways. I am grateful to ivoh for championing and validating their existence.”