Tribal leaders, scientists, and government officials met this week to discuss, and in some, cases, criticize the government over how it handles the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990.
Seen as a historic law which allows Native Americans to reclaim what rightfully belongs to them-- cultural property and tribal ancestors--NAGPRA has come under scrutiny recently. Armand Minthorn, Chair of the NAGPRA Review Committee, criticized the Department of Interior for making repatriation more difficult. He said the Interior has not consulted with tribes, ***one if its own written requirements***, in certain decisions.
"Rather than engage in collaborative decision-making or meaningful consultation as required by NAGPRA and Executive Order 13084, Interior has chosen instead to inform claimants of the decisions after-the-fact, and tried to convince us that the are doing this 'for-our-own-good,'" said Minthorn.
He cited the recent DNA tests ordered by the Interior as an example. He said the tribes claiming Kennewick Man--the Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce, Colville, and Wanampus--have opposed DNA testing and were willing to have the agency make a final determination on to whom, if anyone, the remains should be repatriated, without the tests.
Martin Sullivan, the former Chair of the NAGPRA committee, criticized the National Park Service (NPS) a bureau of the Interior. He said the Park Service has been slow to complete NAGPRA business.
Sullivan cited a backlog of 236 NAGPRA cases as of June. He said these cases represent the failure of the Park Service to publish the items in the Federal Register and to repatriate items in a timely manner.
Suzan Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute, helped negotiate the repatriation provision of NAGPRA. She appeared more harsh on the Park Service, whom she and other leaders recommended to be the lead NAGPRA agency.
"We ignored the lengthy history of NPS's institutionalized racism against Native peoples and its conflict of interest with repatriation, naively believing that it was a new day in Interior and NPS," said Harjo. "The past ten years have provided numerous examples of NPS's repatriation conflicts and its inherent conflict of interest in implementing a law that specifically benefits Native Peoples.
She also said the Park Service recognizes the backlog and Federal register problem.
She said the Department of Interior has requested an additional $400,000 next year to carry out NAGPRA.
This is from yet ANOTHER artifact which has not been returned.
Edited 7/31/00 7:43:44 AM ET by C_ANGEL