Native Americans & Social Justice Allies to Rally at UC Berkeley to Protect Native Ancestral Remains & Sacred Objects
Where: Sproul Plaza at UCB
When: October 5, 2007 at High Noon
Berkeley, CA—All Native American people and social justice allies are urged to attend and bring signs to a vocal and peaceful demonstration designed to protect Native ancestral remains and sacred objects currently housed at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). UCB is attempting to terminate the critically important Tribal consultation and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) program at the university. This tribally-supported NAGPRA program was developed in accordance with federal and state laws and is a semi-autonomous unit within the Hearst Museum. NAGPRA is a federal law that mandates federally funded museums to conduct an inventory of and identify Native human remains and cultural items in their collections. In addition the museum is charged to consult with culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians regarding repatriation. The NAGPRA program at UCB is responsible for insuring the museum complies with the Act and repatriate items when appropriate.
The Native NAGPRA Coalition has been calling for a meeting with UCB Chancellor Birgeneau for months to resolve the problem. Staff of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Office have also been attempting to assist in scheduling the meeting. Yet, the highest ranking UCB official refuses to meet.
“Although the long-standing program has completed a number of NAGPRA-required tasks, there is still a great deal to be accomplished,” said Reno Franklin, Member of the NAGPRA Coalition and Kashia Pomo Tribe. “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,” he added.
“Prior to the decision to cut the tribally-supported NAGPRA program at UCB proper and timely notice was not afforded to the tribes,” said Radley Davis, Member of the Coalition and Pit River Nation. “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,” he added.
“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,” said James Hayward, Member of the Coalition and Redding Rancheria. “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,” he added.
“The UCB is a public institution that is obliged to adhere to the highest standards of non-discrimination,” said Lalo Franco, Representative of the Coalition and Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe. “When a decision has an extremely negative impact on a specific community; when that community is deliberately excluded from the decision process; and when that same process heavily favors opposing stakeholders, internal management prerogatives must give way to concerns of public justice,” he added.
“The reorganization must be stopped and the review process must be reopened to include Natives,” said Morning Star Gali, Member of the Coalition and Pit River Nation. She continued, “UCB must: 1) acknowledge that while the Hearst Museum may temporarily control ancestral remains and sacred objects, control does not constitute ownership; 2) recognize the importance of the traditional and spiritual significance of ancestral remains and sacred objects to tribes; 3) strike a just balance between the interests of Natives and scientists; 4) acknowledge that the goals of NAGPRA and the goals of the Museum are distinct and should not be confused; and 5) understand that NAGPRA is not just one more Museum “activity” that can be blurred with other priorities in ways that trivialize its profound importance to Natives.”
NAGPRA became Law on 11/16/90. It applies to any institution or State or Local government agency that receives Federal funds and has possession of Native American cultural items, including human remains.