Sunday, February 10, 2008

Longest Walk 2

Dear Tribes and Friends:

For those of you who have been sympathetically following the repatriation protest at UC Berkeley, I’d like to urge you to support the Longest Walk (, which is described in the following introductory passage from the organization’s website:

On Feb. 11th, Longest Walk participants will embark on a
5 month journey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. arriving
on July 11th. The Longest Walk south route is being led by
AIM co-founder Dennis J. Banks. It is an extraordinary grassroots
effort on a national level to bring attention to the environmental
disharmony of Mother Earth, sacred site issues, and to
commemorate the 30th anniversary of the original longest walk.

The journey will take fortitude, determination, courage, and much help from supporters along the way. Given the people involved and the significance of the issues, I’m sure the march will succeed. For complete details, please see the website.

The Longest Walk embraces many issues far beyond the sudden and secretive elimination of UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum NAGPRA unit, but organizers sympathize with our protest against turning complete control of the remains over 12,000 Native ancestors to radically anti-repatriation scientists like Osteologist Tim White. For this and other reasons marchers have chosen to stop at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus at 12 noon on this Monday, February 11 for a press conference. Please attend if you possibly can. At that time, speakers will be asking you to support and be present at a California State Senate hearing on February 26 investigating the reorganization and the possibility of setting up a mediation board between tribes and the UC system. Please attend this too – it’s very important to show strength, numbers, and solidarity.

Regarding the NAGPRA unit: in a letter to National NAGPRA on proposed rules for culturally unidentifiable ancestral remains, Susanville Rancheria has perhaps spoken most eloquently about Mr. White’s argument that he deserves complete control of repatriation at the Hearst Museum:

Dr. Tim White … claims that “he and his colleagues in such fields as medicine, physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, forensics and archaeology rely heavily on the use of skeletal remains.” He states further that “no students in these fields could be properly trained without direct access to relevant physical scientific evidence.” How many ancestors must you have to study? It seems to us that you have amassed more human remains than you will ever need to train your up-and-coming scientists. How useful can human remains be, if you identify them as culturally unidentifiable? The ancestors have been dug up and exposed, stopping the journey to the other side; Native Americans have the right to be buried. This is a human rights issue! Their journey has been disturbed. It is time for them to come home, and return to Mother Earth.

Even if Mr. White thinks human remains are so scientifically important, why he is so covetous of Native American remains. Wouldn’t it be fairer to share the burden? Shouldn’t he use his same arguments to request governmental permission to dig up the graves of Caucasians, say at Forest Lawn or even Arlington? President Kennedy is buried at Arlington; he was a brilliant man and surely his remains would yield interesting “scientific” results. Should we desecrate his grave in the name of Mr. White’s precious “science”? Most people would be rightfully shocked. Why are they so complacent about Native American human remains?

I urge you again to support the Longest Walk.
Corbin Collins