URGENT Action Alert - AGAIN
What to do
Subject: S. 2087
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
The Senate Indian Affairs committee has again quietly voted to amend NAGPRA's definition of Native American. Without offering any opportunity for scientific or public comment, the committee passed the bill on September 25, 2007. The next step is to introduce the bill on the floor of the Senate.
The Senate Indian Affairs committee proposed an identical amendment in 2005 without hearing. In response to significant public concern, the committee agreed to hold a hearing in July 2005. The Department of the Interior testified against the proposed amendment, with an invited panel with scientific and public interests. The amendment was removed from the bill.
Unfortunately, the challenge to preserve factual understanding of the past is before us again. S.2087 shifts the control of any understanding of the nation's prehistory to the limited domain of Federally recognized tribes. NAGPRA does not recognize or acknowledge the presence of other indigenous peoples, such as ancestors to modern day Hispanics, unrecognized American Indian groups, or extinct peoples who may not have been ancestors to anyone living today. The continent and our nation's prehistory is more complex than NAGPRA's scope. People within and beyond our nation's borders have an interest in factually understanding the peopling of the continent.
This expansive definition of Native American again sets the stage to overturn the Kennewick Man decisions rendered by the Federal District Court of Oregon and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2004 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in the Kennewick Man lawsuit that the government's interpretation of the definition of Native American yields an absurd result. This flawed interpretation persists with the language added in S.2087.
The Senate must not pass any law that yields an absurd result. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has again voted without new public hearings on this matter. The committee appears willing to ignore the broad implications of this change and the interests of the greater public. More than the Kennewick Man is at stake. Unless this amendment is withdrawn, public access to the factual understanding of the nation's prehistory shifts to the exclusive control of Federally recognized American Indians.
FAX your concerns to your state's Senators, the Senate and House Majority Leaders, and the members of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Ask them to take action to delete the amendment to expand NAGPRA. (US Mail will not reach these offices in time). Every FAX counts.
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