Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sherry Hutt responds on 43 CFR 10.11

Archaeologists and anthropologists are concerned that a new rule implementing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, covering human remains and cultural objects that can't be culturally affiliated with a particular tribe. They have written the Department of Interior asking that the rule be changed. Sherry Hutt, program manager for the National NAGPRA Program with the National Park Service, responded to some of the scientific concerns in an e-mail to ScienceInsider, suggesting that the remains covered by the rule aren't likely to have much scientific value:

Note that this rule applies only to human remains already determined to be Native American, but for whom the body of knowledge is insufficient to determine, even to the level of a reasonable basis, the cultural affiliation of the individuals.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Michigan readies to enact 43 CFR 10.11

Well, UM appears to be getting ready to do the right thing--what about the Hearst Museum? If UM is hiring 2 people for 1600 remains, why isn't the Hearst/UCB hiring 10 or more people? Or will they hide behind the excuse of furloughs and budget cuts? or are they too worried about an athletic center and a stadium retrofit?


The University of Michigan is hiring two new staff members to help return Native American remains and objects from its museum collection to tribes that can show a geographical link to them under a federal law that took effect earlier this month.

Stephen Forrest, U-M’s vice president for research, said he anticipates Native American tribes will file claims for the return of the bones of virtually all of the 1,600 individuals in the collection of the U-M Museum of Anthropology. That collection is not open to the public.

“The university right now is doing everything right,” said Veronica Pasfield, a U-M graduate student who is the external co-chair of the Native Caucus, a group of indigenous graduate students, and the repatriation officer of the Bay Mills Indian Community. "I think that they are working with transparency, they're working very hard to attain full disclosure, and I believe they are sincerely focused on creating empowered tribal collaboration."

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Scientists appeal to Salazar

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.

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(We hope the tribes are also making their appeal for Secretary Salazar to ignore the scientists!)