Indigenous fight to protect Sacred Ancestral Remains

My friends, I ask for your help in getting this information out to ALL
contacts and into all blogs and groups. This is especially important
to get into our Relations hands that may live near enough to attend
this event in California and lend their support. I thank you so very
much for helping spread the word on this important event.

Wahela Bluejay Pierce

Natives and social justice allies to rally at UC Berkeley to protect
ancestral remains

By Mark LeBeau, Citizen of the Pit River Nation, MS

With input from the Native NAGPRA Coalition

October 1, 2007

Historically, Native people have endured a great deal of traumatic
experiences through actions of the dominant society, including loss of
land, life, and liberty. Today, many Native people contend with
post-traumatic stress issues stemming from historical situations and
their own traumatic experiences. Healing such wounds takes dedication
on the part of the traumatized, the proper health providers, and an
appropriate support system. Many Natives find traditional Indian
wellness methods to be some of the most effective prevention and
treatment approaches available. In spite of the advances that have
been made in healing traumatized Natives, there are parts of the
dominant society that continue to cause great harm to these people. A
primary example is the University of California Berkeley's (UCB)
Hearst Museum which refuses to maintain an appropriate program whereby
Natives can reclaim their ancestral remains from the museum and rebury
these love ones.

The right to control ancestral remains is a basic human entitlement
that nearly all groups in the United States are afforded except
Natives. Throughout American history, scientists routinely pillaged
Native burial grounds and shipped massive amounts of ancestral remains
to museums for study, including the UCB Hearst Museum.

The Hearst Museum houses human remains from approximately 13,000
biological individuals. UCB spokespersons insinuate that the figure is
lower because the collection only has 9,000 or so "catalog entries."
This is an attempt to mislead: "Catalog entry" does not refer to a
biological individual; it designates where biological individuals are
recorded in the museum archives. A single catalog entry can, and often
does, designate multiple biological individuals.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
was intended by Congress to redress the injustice of Natives not being
able to control their ancestral remains and require Museums, including
the Heart Museum, to repatriate human remains for reburial by tribes.

In the 101st Congress, NAGPRA was actively promoted by both Republican
and Democratic legislators, including then-House of Representatives
Udall, Campbell, Young, Rhodes and Richardson and Senators McCain,
Inouye and Domenici. Sherry Hutt, current National NAGPRA Program
Manager of the National Park Service and former Arizona Superior Court
Judge, in congressional testimony called NAGPRA, "one of the most
significant pieces of human rights legislation since the Bill of
Rights." A purpose of NAGPRA was to reduce the looting of Native
cultural sites in the U.S. and the selling of Native human remains on
the local, regional, national, and international art and black
markets. Reports to Congress in 1988 estimated that between 50-90% of
known cultural sites on private and public lands had been looted. Over
the objections of the Interior Department, the Senate and House
unanimously passed NAGPRA and President Bush signed the bill into law
on November 16, 1990.

Although the Hearst Museum purports to have "complied" with NAGPRA,
this claim is false. NAGPRA directed museums to submit an inventory of
its Native collections by 1995. UCB did not finish until 2000. Before
submitting the inventory, museums were required to determine which
remains and artifacts could be traced to specific tribes. When this
was possible, the items would be classified as "culturally affiliated"
and repatriated. Museums were allowed to keep the rest of the remains
indefinitely, which were designated "culturally unidentifiable." UCB
classified less than 20 percent of its remains and artifacts as
culturally affiliated and more than 80 percent as culturally
unidentifiable. Although UCB has repatriated some of the culturally
affiliated remains, it is out of compliance with respect to more than
80 percent of the collection. This is because NAGRPA also required
that museums make a good faith effort to consult with tribes before
submitting their inventories and to consider tribal evidence for
cultural affiliation. Acceptable evidence could be historical,
geographic, linguistic, based on oral tradition, etc., as well as
archaeological. UCB did not make a genuine effort to consult with
tribes. To the extent that consultation occurred at all – and often it
did not – it was entirely inadequate and did not meet NAGPRA
requirements. The law mandated that the standard for deciding whether
remains were affiliated was the "preponderance of the evidence." This
means that all evidence must be considered before classifying remains
as culturally affiliated or unidentifiable. However, since tribes were
not allowed to submit evidence before the Hearst Museum submitted its
inventory, the Museum did not abide by NAGPRA's evidentiary mandate.

UC Berkeley has terminated its NAGPRA program, which resisted
pressures from research scientists and provided tribes with fair,
impartial and comprehensive research and consultation services. These
services helped tribes defend their claims before biased repatriation
committees, which are completely dominated by archaeologists. UCB
completely and deliberately excluded all Natives from the secretive
review process that eliminated the NAGPRA program, and did so in spite
of strenuous protests by tribes and other Native Americans. The review
was conducted by two non-native archaeologists hostile to NAGPRA. The
Museum reorganization is designed to keep the Museum's collection
intact, frustrate legitimate tribal claims, and subordinate NAGPRA
obligations to scientific research that often violates Native
religious beliefs.

Given that UCB is not adhering to the NAGPRA law and is traumatizing
and causing great harm to Natives working to reclaim their ancestral
remains, Native people and social justice allies will rally at the
University on October 5th at high noon to demand UCB immediately
comply with the law. The University must: bring the Hearst Museum into
compliance with NAGPRA; stop the reorganization and reopen the review
process to include Native Americans; reinstate the autonomous NAGPRA
unit and remove it from the administrative control of the Museum and
the Vice Chancellor for research; reform the UCB repatriation
committee process and work to reform the committee process at the UC
system-wide level; acknowledge that when NAGPRA interests conflict
with Museum interests, Natives' standing as legal claimants must take
priority; and meet with the Native American NAGPRA Coalition to
discuss the future of NAGPRA at Berkeley.

Please participate in the demonstration if you are able to or send
good prayers, thoughts, and songs to those standing up against forces
attempting to continue to deny Natives their ancestral remains.
For more information contact:

Reno Franklin 707-591-0580 Ext 105;
Lalo Franco 559-925-2831;
Radley Davis 530-917-6064;
James Hayward 530-410-2875;
Morning Star Gali 510-827-6719;
Corbin Collins 510-652-1567;
Mark LeBeau 916-801-4422.

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