Legislative Alert - ARPA Modification - 11/9/2004

ATADA Legislative Alert 1, ARPA Modification,
9 November, 2004

Dear (ATADA Member),

You are receiving this e-mail because of your membership in ATADA.

We understand that the Senate will vote by voice (no roll call, no accountability) on an amendment to NAGPRA after it reconvenes Nov. 16. Thus time is of the essence and we ask your prompt attention to the following matter:

(This is a quote from The Friends of America’s Past web site http://www.friendsofpast.org/)

” Without mentioning NAGPRA by name, Colorado Senator Campbell introduced an amendment that significantly changes the intent and scope of NAGPRA. By referring to Public Law 101-601 rather than calling attention to the more familiar NAGPRA, the clear intent was to slip this amendment by unnoticed. No time was allowed for discussion of this amendment. Although the original framers of NAGPRA recognized that the scientific community and the general public have a significant interest in understanding our nation’s factual prehistory, these interests have been quietly set aside with two words: ‘or was’. A press report (www.Indianz.com 10/1/04) quoted a Senate staffer who said the amendment was ” non-controversial” .

” The statute’s definition of Native American was a central issue in the Kennewick Man case. In fact, the government argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that if the bones of ” Adam and Eve” were found within our borders, they would be considered Native American under NAGPRA. As a result they would have been given to claiming tribes, reburied, and the public would have no legal right to object. This new amendment effectively allows any federally recognized tribes to claim any and all ancient remains even though they can produce, as the Ninth Circuit Court stated, ” no cognizable link” to the remains. This new definition puts all ancient remains such as Spirit Cave, Wizards Beach, Gordon Creek, Horn Shelter, and Arlington Springs under NAGPRA.

” If this new wording had been part of NAGPRA in 1996 when the Kennewick remains were discovered, the skeleton would have been deemed Native American, given to the claiming tribe (Umatilla), and reburied without study. Although NAGPRA requires that a tribe produce evidence of a relationship to an identifiable prior group, the Secretary of the Interior has the authority to set aside this requirement. Former Secretary Babbitt did so at least twenty times, allowing repatriation to claiming tribes without requiring any evidence beyond their beliefs. The government and tribes have argued that under NAGPRA, Native American remains cannot be studied for research purposes. NAGPRA does include such a statement.

” Expanding NAGPRA in this way imposes a simplistic view of the past: that the only inhabitants of the continent were the ancestors of modern American Indians. Time and time again, scientists have refuted this idea. Two words ‘or was’ denies factual understanding of the complexities that surely existed in the peopling of the Americas by giving American Indians exclusive control over our nation’s prehistory. In the Kennewick Man case, the government and tribes argued unsuccessfully all the information obtained during government studies is proprietary to the tribes should not be accessible to the public. With NAGPRA’s amended language, the public would be denied access to any information discovered about the earliest people to inhabit the continent. All information about our prehistory would belong exclusively to the tribes.”

” Contact your Senators and Representatives in Washington DC and voice your concern that this reportedly ‘non-consequential’ amendment to S.2843 has passed committee review without the benefit of public review or any consideration of the far-reaching consequences.”

The ATADA Board of Directors has asked me to create a “Legislative Alert” web page. More information on this alert will shortly be posted to the new web page.

There are numerous issues of importance to collectors and dealers alike. I am looking for help to collect information to be posted on our new web page. I am inviting all of you to send me subjects for posting and I am especially looking for help in keeping up to date on these rapidly developing topics.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Arch Thiessen, ATADA Webmaster