Friends of America's Past

NAGPRA | News and Comment


Let Washington know that the Society for American Archaeology does not represent the views of all professional and amateur archeology groups nor individuals interested in preserving America's prehistory. We've drafted core statements to help individuals and organizations take action. Phone calls and faxes are most effective and immediate. Congress needs to hear from as many people and organizations as possible - quickly.


House of Representatives

Senate Indian Affairs Committee

House Resources Committee

Amendment Specifics

Senate Bill 2843 "Native American Technical Corrections Act of 2004"

Amendment Section 14: Amendment of Definition

Section 2(9) of Public Law 101-601 (25 U.S.C. 3001(9)) is amended by inserting 'or was' after 'is'.

Points to cover:

1. Senator Campbell of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has sponsored an amendment to the S.2843 Native American Technical Corrections Act of 2004 that expands the definition of "Native American" in NAGPRA. The proposed amendment was ambiguously identified as relating to Public Law 101-601 and no discussion was allowed. The amendment passed unanimously. This amendment is an effort to undo two recent court rulings that have exempted the remains of Kennewick Man (more than 9400 years old) from inclusion under NAGPRA. Senate staffers have described this amendment as 'non-controverisal'.

2. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) has announced that, although they object to the way in which this proposed change to NAGPRA was attempted, SAA does not object to the proposed change itself. SAA's public statement will be used by supporters of the proposed change to NAGPRA to suggest that a majority of professional archaeologists in America support a change to the act. This is far from the truth. Such action would make it impossible for scientists to study ancient human remains such as Kennewick Man, even though the remains have no 'cognizable relationship' to any modern American Indians.

3. Two courts have ruled in unambiguous decisions that the SAA's position on expanding the definition of "Native American" to everyone here before 1492 would yield absurd results. SAA's failure to acknowledge this error, and its decision to continue to promulgate this error are not in the best interests of American archaeology.

4. The Ohio Archaeological Council, the Texas Historical Commission, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Ethnic Minority Council, and others submitted Friend of the Court briefs in support of the scientists who took the government to court in order to be able to study Kennewick Man. Ask your organization to add it's name to this list of supporters.

Ask the membership to call, fax, email, or write to US Senators and Representatives expressing dismay at the method in which this change is being attempted and indicating that their group, in contrast to the SAA, does not support the proposed change nor the restrictions to studying ancient human remains that surely will result from its implementation. Be sure to refer to the specific bill/amendment in the communication (below).

Time is of the essence, as the Senate may soon vote on S.2843.

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