Thursday, February 7, 2008

A quick note

Dear tribes and friends:

While the Native American NAGPRA Coalition (NANC) believes the LA Times article is by and large fair, there a few factual errors.

The article seems to insinuate that ancestral remains cannot be repatriated to non-recognized tribes. According to NANC member, archaeologist and Stanford faculty member Jon D. Daehnke, Ph.D, this is incorrect. “There is absolutely nothing in NAGPRA that precludes the repatriation of human remains or cultural objects to non-recognized tribes and in fact repatriation to non-recognized tribes has occurred across the nation (and has been applauded by the National NAGPRA Review Committee). The distinction is that repatriation in these cases is at the discretion of the museum or federal agency. In this sense, a museum's relationship with non-recognized tribal entities is very illustrative of their overall feelings toward ownership of bones and the concerns of Native Americans. Museums that choose not to repatriate to non-recognized tribes, or even to consult with them, typically reflect a patronizing and colonial view of their authority and control over these human remains. Therefore, Professor Tim White's assessment that these objects are not being repatriated because they are affiliated with non-recognized tribes is both ethically and legally incorrect, and is indicative of his true attitudes.”

The reporter states that "Larri Fredericks and her husband, Corbin Collins, organized a coalition of tribes opposed to the museum reorganization." This is extremely misleading and must have come from a campus source; the Coalition was organized by tribes themselves and many other Native Americans, including Fredericks. (Collins did not even know tribal members prior to the dispute). The Chancellor perpetuates this myth because it is in the reorganization’s interest to blame our protest on a “small group of critics.” All of the resolutions (including the National Congress of American Indians’), the letters, the protests, and nationwide expression of support put the lie to the Chancellor’s disinformation.

The University now claims that NAGPRA unit was disbanded because it was "dysfunctional"; but prior to the reorganization, the University and the tribes had nothing but praise for the Unit's performance. Indeed, administrators rationalized the “integration” of the unit into the museum as a means of better drawing on the staff’s highly regarded expertise. The only "dysfunction" was that the Unit's efficient, fair and impartial administration of NAGPRA threatened the professional goals of scientists such as Tim White who want to keep the collection of Native American human remains intact for research. The administrators who ordered the reorganization are allies of these scientists, in opposition to tribal concerns. To this day, neither the Chancellor nor higher UC officials such as Rory Hume will even deign to meet with leaders of sovereign tribal governments.