Monday, January 14, 2008

NAGPRA and 'Bones of Contention' clarification

Responses to 'Bones of Contention' in LA Times:,1,1281929.story.

Dear tribes and friends:
The article below appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. While the Native American NAGPRA Coalition believes it is by and large fair, there a few factual errors.
The reporter states that "Larri Fredericks and her husband, Corbin Collins, organized a coalition of tribes opposed to the museum reorganization."
This is extremely misleading and must have come from a campus source; the Coalition was organized by tribes themselves and many other Native Americans, including Fredericks. (Collins did not even know tribal members prior to the dispute). The Chancellor perpetuates this myth because it is in the reorganization’s interest to blame our protest on a “small group of critics.” All of the resolutions (including the National Congress of American Indians’), the letters, the protests, and nationwide expression of support put the lie to the Chancellor’s disinformation. Also, the University now claims that NAGPRA unit was disbanded because it was "dysfunctional"; but prior to the reorganization, the University and the tribes had nothing but praise for the Unit's performance. Indeed, administrators rationalized the “integration” of the unit into the museum as a means of better drawing on the staff’s highly regarded expertise. The only "dysfunction" was that the Unit's efficient, fair and impartial administration of NAGPRA threatened the professional goals of scientists such as Tim White who want to keep the collection of Native American human remains intact for research. The administrators who ordered the reorganization are allies of these scientists, in opposition to tribal concerns. To this day, neither the Chancellor nor higher UC officials such as Rory Hume will even deign to meet with leaders of sovereign tribal governments.

(second response)

Dear Mr. Paddock:

I wish to make a brief clarification to your "Bones of Contention"article in today's LA Times. To place this message in context, I am an archaeologist and graduate of UC Berkeley's Department of Anthropology and am now on the Stanford faculty. I am also a member of the Berkeley Native American NAGPRA Coalition organized to protest the Hearst's handling of their NAGPRA responsibilities and their overall attitudes toward Native Americans.
First, thank you for your article and for bringing this issue to the attention of people in Southern California. I think that the article is overall an excellent report of the primary issues. There is, however, an error in the article relating to the status of non-recognized tribes. The article seems to insinuate that ancestral remains cannot be repatriated to non-recognized tribes. This is incorrect. There is absolutely nothing in NAGPRA that precludes the repatriation of human remains or cultural objects to non-recognized tribes and in fact repatriation to non-recognized tribes has occurred across the nation (and has been applauded by the National NAGPRA Review Committee). The distinction is that repatriation in these cases is at the discretion of the museum or federal agency. In this sense, a museum's relationship with non-recognized tribal entities is very illustrative of their overall feelings toward ownership of bones and the concerns of Native Americans. Museums that choose not to repatriate to non-recognized tribes, or even to consult with them,typically reflect a patronizing and colonial view of their authority and control over these human remains. Therefore, White's assessment that these objects are not being repatriated because they are affiliated with non-recognized tribes is both ethically and legally incorrect, and is indicative of his true attitudes.
Thank you.
Best, Jon Daehnke
Jon D. Daehnke,
Ph.D.Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Humanities
Stanford University

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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