Friday, October 5, 2007

Senate Changes Native American Graves Protection and Repatriaion Act Language

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved a bill last Thursday to amend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. S.2078. The Native American Omnibus Technical Corrections Act, changes the definition of “Native American” under NAGPRA. It allows the repatriation of ancestors and artifacts that aren’t linked to present-day tribes. The amendment is a response to a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Kennewick Man case. The court said the 9,200-year-old man, who was found on a former reservation, is not Native American because he cannot be linked to a present-day tribe.

As I argued extensively in Respect for the Ancestors, just now the language of NAGPRA is catching up with the evidence. Here is the actual change in the text:


This Act may be cited as the `Native American Omnibus Technical Corrections Act of 2007'.


Section 2(9) of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (25 U.S.C. 3001(9)) is amended--

(1) by inserting `or was' after `is'; and

(2) by inserting after `indigenous to' the following: `any geographic area that is now located within the boundaries of'.

Now with this language, contemporary Native Americans have the legal weight that they were lacking to claim their ancestors. Prior to this, if there was no lineal proof in the form of some "scientifically" valid evidence, the language of the law argued that the skeletons were not Native American. This is no longer the case, so Kennewick Man, Buhl Woman, Spirit Cave Mummy, and the like must now be considered ancestors of today's Native American peoples.

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