Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WASHINGTON – Scientists are considering a lawsuit against a new rule that would help repatriate thousands of Native American remains to tribes across the nation.

The rule, published March 15 and open for comment for 60 days, is a clarification from the Interior Department to the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. It states that after appropriate tribal consultation, transfer of culturally unidentifiable remains is to be made to a tribe from whose tribal or aboriginal lands the remains were excavated or removed. Civil penalties are proposed for museums and learning institutions that do not follow the law.

The development has been largely celebrated by Native American communities, although tribal advocates say it has shortcomings, like not including sacred culturally unidentifiable funerary objects in its scope. Some tribes are using the open comment period to make that concern known, noting that common law and some state laws require repatriation of such objects.

Some scientists, however, are outraged by the new rule, believing that important human knowledge could be lost if the remains go back to tribes.

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Once again, we urge tribal members to let the Federal government know how they feel about the law!