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Column: Fine tuning of Native repatriation act


"A federal court fight made Kennewick Man the symbol of the struggle between science and native beliefs over the telling of the earliest Americans' story. But Kuw�ot yas.�in proves it doesn't necessarily have to be so.

In this 10th summer since Kuw�ot yas.�in and Kennewick Man were found on federal land, the U.S. repatriation law requires some combination of clarification, enforcement and accountability. Next month, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, will introduce legislation to clarify Congress' original intent in passing the Native Americans Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). That is, only remains with a substantial cultural relationship to presently existing tribes should be repatriated given back 闗 to the tribes.

Hastings' bill counters efforts in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to undermine the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of scientists who successfully sued to study the remains. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., held a hearing last year on a NAGPRA amendment that would make it easier for modern native people to claim human remains by virtue of common geography rather than cultural affiliation.

The contrasting approaches should revive debate to fine-tune the 1990 repatriation law, a righteous law that establishes a process for museums and federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. While most museums have met their inventory and notification deadlines, many federal agencies have been slower to act. The inconsistencies are so concerning that the federal NAGPRA review committee plans to ask Congress for a Government Accountability Office audit."

Get the Story:
Kate Riley: Who owns the past? (The Seattle Times 8/27)
Editorial: Science and tribal beliefs (The Seattle Times 8/27)

Relevant Links:
National NAGPRA - http://www.cr.nps.gov/nagpra

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