Monday, April 28, 2008

Testimony by Mark Hall

{Testimony to the California State Senate Committee on Governmetal Organization given by Dr. Mark Hall on 2/26/2008. The full hearing is available from the Committee and can be requested in writing from Suite 584, 1020 N Street, Sacramento, CA}

Dear Senators, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Good Morning. My name is Mark Hall, and I was formerly the archaeologist with the NAGPRA Unit at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. I was in this position from February 1, 2006 until June 30th, 2007.

As to my background, I finished my PhD in Anthropology (Archaeology emphasis) from UC Berkeley in Dec. 1992. Most of my career has been spent living, working and doing research in museums in Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom. I am a registered Professional Archaeologist, and a Fellow in the Royal Society of Asian Affairs, and a Fellow in the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

While all this overseas experience my seem irrelavent,it needs to be stressed that I did quickly learn one thing. Local communities have an interest in their heritage. It didn't matter whether I was in Ireland or Mongolia, the local people all identified with the local archaeological remains
and museum materials. To do archaeology and research in these places required the involvement and permission from the community.

I see the same principles applying here in North America--to do research and study on prehistoric North American materials one needs the involvement and sanction of the Native American tribes.

I am here today not as a disgruntled, former employee, but as an archaeologist and museum professional who is outraged and disgusted with what has transpired with UC Berkley and its NAGPRA obligations.

First, I am outraged at the way the University covertly and with bias eliminated the NAGPRA unit. While our jobs made us the intermediaries between museum staff, researchers and Native Americans, the University sought only two UC faculty to evaluate and review us. While they were scheduled to question the NAGPRA staff for 20 minutes each, in my case, it was only a 10 minute interview--one member needed to work on getting a plane back to Santa Barbara, and the other wanted to complain about doing the review. In terms of the rest of their fact finding mission, they only bothered to question other museum employees that we interacted with only irregularly. There was no input from the Native American communities we served, and as Prof. Burnside's emails indicate, there was not to be any input from these communities. Further, while we were told this was for budget support from both Beth Burnside and Kent Lightfoot, the reviewers told us they were reviewing us on how we fit into museum operations and evaluate our job performance.

Moving on to other points. While UCB touts it is in compliance with the federal NAGPRA law, one can question its sincerity. In a 2000 report by Dr. Edward Luby, a former NAGPRA coordinator, he estimated that 48% of the inventories were done without full review of the documents available at UCB. While technically legal, is it really ethical and moral? One also has to wonder what impact does this have on the Hearst listing 80% of its collection as culturally unidentifiable? My personal feeling is that it will have a major impact--from what I have found in the paperwork, parts of CA-Lassen-7, CA-San Joaquin-42, CA-Tul-145, Humboldt and Hidden caves in Nevada should have been eligible for repatriation. Along similar lines, one also has to question the Hearst's title to some items in its collections. For example does UC Berkeley really hold title to the finds from sites NV-Washoe-177 through 180 that
were accessioned to the museum before 1970?

The process that the UC system has put into place for Native American tribes to file a claim is also a source of disgust. Whether through intention or accident, claims for items and human remains in the Hearst must be written and submitted as a formal report. This means it must be referenced, footnoted and with a bibliography. This is in contrast to most Federal agencies which accept a short letter and oral testimony. While NAGPRA recognizes oral traditions, linguistics, and history as relevant lines of evidence, the UCB repatriation committee in the months between February 2006 and June 2007 was noticeably lacking in members specializing in these fields. And unless changes have been made since June 2007, the UCOP Repatriation committee is also lacking specialists in linguistics, oral traditions/folklore, and history. Native American representation on both the Berkeley repatriation committee and the UCOP repatriation committee is also minimal. For the Berkely repatriation committee there was only 1. For the UCOP committee, there is 2.

And yes when a claim is filed it must go through two committees. It goes through the local campus committee first, and if it gets approved for repatriation there, it goes to the UCOP repatriation committee. The UCOP committee can accept or reject it. In essence you have a double jeopardy system.

Finally, the UCB mantra in this whole affair has been: "we want to be more like other museums." One has to ask though, do these other museums which the Hearst wants to emulate have a sizable Native American community living in their midst? in most cases it is no!
Also, one can ask when did UCB ever settle for being mediocre? The UCB I was trained by, taught us to be the best period. What is wrong with setting a new standard and a new path?

Thank you for your time and the oportunity to voice these concerns.

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