Monday, July 30, 2007

Letter from the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites

National NAGPRA Review Committee
C/o Designated Federal Officer
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Mary Bomar, Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

RE: Alleged violations of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by the University of California Berkeley

Dear Federal Officer and Director Bomar,

Beth Burnside, University California Berkeley (UCB) Vice Chancellor, has reportedly decided to terminate the critically important Tribal consultation and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) program at the university. The Vice Chancellor is supported by Kent Lightfoot, archaeologist and Director of UCB’s Phoebe Hearst Museum, Tim White, paleontologist and Chair of UCB’s repatriation committee, and others. The tribally-supported NAGPRA program at UCB was developed in accordance with federal and state NAGPRA laws and is a semi-autonomous unit within the Phoebe Hearst Museum. It is responsible for conducting an inventory of and identifying Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and charged to consult with culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. Although the program has completed a number of NAGPRA-required tasks, there is still a great deal to be accomplished. The decision to cut the program was based on a biased report written by two archeologists who represent research interests that often conflict with tribal claims on the museum’s collection of ancestral remains.

Prior to the decision to cut the tribally-supported NAGPRA program at the university proper and timely notice was not afforded to the tribes. This act of tribal exclusion is intolerable and demonstrates the overall museum’s and Vice Chancellor’s significant lack of commitment to and respect for the living tribal people of the Americas and their deceased. The progressive NAGPRA program supported by the tribes is being replaced with a substandard service more to the liking of the archaeologists whom wrote the report.

If the substandard service is allowed to be implemented, UCB and tribes will lose the only qualified program for fair and objective consultation and documented research on repatriation issues. The new substandard service will be supervised by museum staff members who are not qualified to make decisions regarding Native issues. The staff’s primary responsibilities include promoting the museum, preserving the collections, and serving the needs of research scientists, not protecting Native human remains and cultural items.

We bring to the attention of the Secretary of the Interior that UCB’s museum has failed to comply with NAGPRA rules and regulations, specifically Section 9-43 CFR 10.12(b)(vii). The museum failed to consult with lineal descendants, Indian tribe officials, and traditional religious leaders as required. We urge the Secretary to conduct a thorough investigation of NAGPRA violations by UCB and to motivate Chancellor Birgeneau to meet with the tribes to discuss the issue and to maintain the existing NAGRPA program at the university until consultation with tribes can occur.

Also, given the short timeline for the sun setting of the tribally-supported NAGPRA program, we are requesting the involvement of the NAGPRA Review Committee which was established under the law "to monitor and review the implementation of the inventory and identification process and repatriation activities." Committee members are appointed by the Secretary from nominations by Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, traditional Native American religious leaders, national museum organizations, and scientific organizations. The Committee works to ensure that information on compliance with the law be maintained and makes annual reports to Congress and hears disputes on factual matters to resolve repatriation issues. Clearly the tribes and UCB’s Museum have a major repatriation issue that needs to be resolved.

According to UCB published reports, the university’s museum houses thousands of human remains and artifacts. The Sponsored Projects Office of UCB reports that each year the university receives substantial grant support for research and public service projects from federal and state agencies and other sources.

We look forward to receiving a written response from you and participation in the implementation of a resolution suitable to tribes and other parties under NAGPRA.

Sincerely,
Radley Davis, James Hayward, Mark LeBeau

cc: Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Joe Garcia (NCAI President), Jacqueline Johnson (NCAI Executive Director)

1 comment:

MEH said...

Mark LeBeau also writes to me:

"Dear All,

The attached letter in PDF was sent to the National NAGPRA Review Committee, National Park Service Director, Senate Indian Affairs Committee, our Senators, and the Director and President of National Congress of American Indians. You and/or your tribe could a send similar letter—see attached Word doc. This would place additional pressure on UCB to do the right thing. Feel free to forward the attachments to all who might be interested in sending their own letters."