Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Letter from the International Indian Treaty Council

RE: Elimination of the UC Berkeley Phoebe Hearst Museum’s NAGPRA Unit

Dear Lieutenant Governor Garamendi,

Please receive our greetings. We respectfully request that, as an Ex Officio member of the University of California Regents and one of the few rational holders of public office, you give serious consideration to this letter requesting your assistance. We also request that you have it distributed to other members of the Board of Regents.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with Consultative Status before the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Formed at a gathering called by the American Indian Movement at Standing Rock, South Dakota in 1974, the IITC was the first Indigenous NGO accorded Consultative Status, in 1977. Our mission, as determined by our founders, is to work internationally for the Sovereignty and Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights, Treaties, Traditional Cultures and Sacred Lands. It is in this role that we write to you, joining many California Indian Tribes, recognized and not recognized, as well as organizations and individuals protesting the disbanding of the NAGPRA Unit of UC’s Phoebe Hearst Museum.

As you may be aware, NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection Act, Public Law 101-601 of November 16, 1990, establishes that federally recognized Native American tribes have the right to reclaim items known as Objects of Cultural Patrimony, Associated Funerary Objects, Unassociated Funerary Objects, Human Remains, and Sacred Objects. NAGPRA mandates that all federally recognized Native American tribes be given an inventory of items that they may be repatriated and restored.

It is important to recall that the foundation of California’s prosperity, the Gold Rush, is a history of the broken bodies of hundreds of thousands of massacred and enslaved Indians and the destruction of their traditional cultures and ways of life. Even as slavery was being repealed it was legal in California to buy and sell Indians. Historical accounts reveal that young boys sold for $60 and young women for as much as $200, that 4,000 Indian children were bought and sold. The “new” State of California paid out over one million dollars in both 1851 and 1852 to those encouraged to hunt Indians. It is not mere rhetoric to recall that in 1863 rewards were paid, – ranging from $5 for every severed head in Shasta, to 25 cents for a scalp in Honey Lake. I am enclosing a copy of “Gold Greed and Genocide (see www.1849.org),” an historical account, prepared for California’s “celebration” of the Gold Rush, of the true history of Indians in California Their only “legacy” is enslaved and massacred grandparents, the loss of land, languages song, and ancient ceremony. Poisonous mercury from that time still pollutes all major waterways of Northern California down to San Francisco Bay. For Northern California Indians whose means of subsistence continues to be fish, that legacy continues to kill and debilitate Indians.

With the relatively recent advent of a handful of Casino tribes, the now Governor of California called for Indians to “pay their fair share. Given this history, we would ask, “their fair share of what”? It is the State of California that owes a historical debt to those relatively few who survived and who only now are beginning to reclaim their languages, their spiritual and cultural traditions, their environment and their lands - with little or no help from the Great State of California. But as California casino tribes are now paying anyway what have Indians gotten in return?

The Phoebe Hearst Museum web site proudly announces that they have possession of over three million “objects of material culture.” Among those “objects” are a great many, hundreds if not thousands of human remains that are categorized as “unaffiliated” and “unidentified.” It is clear that the University is violating both the spirit and intent of NAGPRA. It is doing away with a small two person team that only recently began its work in earnest with Tribes to identify and restore these remains for a decent and humane burial in keeping with tribal spiritual ceremony and culture.

This is more than a humanitarian issue. It is an issue of freedom of religion and our internationally recognized human right to practice our traditional religions. In his 1998 visit to the United States, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance found that:

“The Native Americans are without any doubt the community facing the most problematical situation, one inherited from a past of denial of their religious identity, in particular through a policy of assimilation, which most Native Americans insist on calling genocide (physical liquidation, religious conversion, attempts to destroy their traditional way of life, laying waste of land, etc.).”1

In his report, the first United Nations examination of United States attitudes and responses to the human rights of the American Indian, the Special Rapporteur also found that NAGPRA was indeed an issue of importance to the religious human rights of Native Americans:

“As far as legislation is concerned, while noting advances in recent years in the instruments emerging from the legislature and the executive which are designed to protect Native Americans' religion in general (American Indian Religious Freedom Act) and in particular (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites, Executive Memorandum on Native American Access to Eagle Feathers), the Special Rapporteur identified weaknesses and gaps which diminish the effectiveness and hinder the application of these legal safeguards. Concerning the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Supreme Court has declared that this law was only a policy statement. As for the Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites, unfortunately, it does not contain an "action clause", leaving the tribes without the needed legal "teeth". Higher standards or the protection of sacred sites are needed and effective tribal consultation should be ensured. These recommendations are all the more necessary in light of the October 1997 Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regulations and the January 1997 bill (see paragraph 59 (a) and (b) above). Concerning the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, it is apparent that its coverage was too limited; it is of the utmost importance that concrete solutions be found to solve the repatriation conflict between the scientific community and tribal governments. It is also essential to secure genuine de jure and de facto protection of Native American prisoners' religious rites.”2 (Emphasis supplied)

Little has changed since the Special Rapporteur’s visit to the United States and his litany of violated spiritual and religious human rights. Given the historical record and this report on the sad state of human rights in this country particularly with regard to Native Americans and their right to practice their religion, we would hope that the Board of Regents would examine and reverse the University’s decision to terminate the NAGPRA Unit. Notwithstanding United States international human rights obligations we believe UC should at least comply with the law. And NAGPRA is the law.

We note that at a recent meeting of the Regents, much was said about enrollments of African Americans and Hispanics. Nothing was said about Native American enrollment. As far as we can tell there are no Native Americans on the Board of Regents Although Indians are invisible in California, we exist. We would ask that the Board of Regents heed our call for human rights and for the dignity and proper burial of our grandparents.

For all our relations,

Alberto Saldamando, General Counsel,

International Indian Treaty Council

cc: Andrea Carmen, IITC Executive Director

NAGPRA Coalition

1 U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1999/58/Add.1, Report submitted by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/18, 9 December 1998 Addendum, Visit to the United States of America, paragraph 53.

2 Id, at paragraph 80.

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.

Radley Davis, James Hayward, Mark LeBeau

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

Natives fear Hearst Museum may keep Alaska artifacts

Natives fear Hearst Museum may keep Alaska artifacts

AT BERKELEY: University dissolves unit that restored remains and art to tribes.
The Associated Press

Published: July 30, 2007 Last Modified: July 30, 2007 at 09:41 AM

JUNEAU -- Groups in Alaska are criticizing a California university's decision to eliminate the unit that restores Native artifacts to their original owners.
Native leaders worry the move at the University of California, Berkeley will delay or prevent the return of artifacts to tribes and clans under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The university's Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology boasts the second-largest collection of Native American remains and items in the country, including hundreds of Northwest Coast art and Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian objects.

My impression is that this is one of the few museums where the staff is what we call the 'old guard,' " said Bob Sam, an elder and expert in human remains and burial site restoration, in Sitka. "They have very strong feelings that these items shouldn't be turned over to the Native people, but that they should be kept in a safe environment.

read it all at http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/9174976p-9091615c.html