Leading lights of anthropology have submitted a plea to the Department of the Interior to change a rule concerning how museums and universities are to dispose of "culturally unaffiliated remains"—ancient bones and objects that cannot be linked to a particular tribe or group. Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) passed in 1990, remains culturally affiliated with certain tribes must be returned to those tribes, who may then rebury them. But the new rule goes further in requiring unaffiliated remains to be given to organizations whose tribal lands are nearby if they request it, or even to be given to other groups.
In a 17 May letter of protest to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, researchers say that the rule as written will cause "an incalculable loss to science" by permanently making such remains unavailable, and that the rule is "contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law." The letter is signed by a who's who of 41 prominent archeaologists and anthropologists, all members of the National Academy of Sciences.
(We hope the tribes are also making their appeal for Secretary Salazar to ignore the scientists!)