A Statement of the Ethnic Minority Council of America
Ethnic Minority Council of America
STATEMENT OF THE ETHNIC MINORITY COUNCIL OF AMERICA ON THE NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT: RECOMMENTDATIONS FOR DISPOSAL OF CULTURALLY UNIDENTIFIABLE HUMAN REMAINS
The Ethnic Minority Council of America (EMCA) is a group of over 3,000 citizens concerned with the promotion of their ethnic heritages. We wish to make recommendations to the committee concerning the disposal of unidentified human remains.
The EMCA believes that there is a serious problem with the disposal of these remains as is now done. Incompletely or poorly identified remains are often disposed by giving them to the closest geographic or politically connected Native American (Indian) tribal group out of convenience. The assumption that all remains are "Native American" (Indian) prior to 1492 is controversial and does not recognize contact/colonization by Asian and European peoples (e.g., Viking, Kennewick man). There is a significant legal and spiritual danger in presenting non-related remains to groups who may, assuming them as their kin, bury these remains in family/tribal cemeteries, claim artifacts and land rights.
There is a significant danger that remains may be turned over to a particular group who may not represent (due to politics, geographic local) the true descendants of those remains since many Native Americans do not live or associate with their 'assigned' tribes or recognize the particular tribal political leaders representing the tribe.
Remains given to the unrelated people deprive the real descendants of their loved ones and cures the present custodians who may treat their remains as their own. Many Native Americans believe such curses as real and threatening to present and future generations. It is a serious religious issue.
Because of these dangers of mis-identification and wrongful custody, the EMCA recommends:
1. All unidentifiable remains be studied using all scientific means (e.g. DNA studies), allowing reputable researchers full access to the remains in an effort to make a positive forensic identification.
2. All identifications must be supported by credible scientific and historic evidence.
3. Location of the remains not be used as the prime method of identification. Many groups have historically moved, mixed and otherwise relocated over time. Location is not an accurate indicator of biological relationship.
4. The true, individual descendent(s) be identified before the release of the remains. Identifying groups or tribes, rather than individuals, is not appropriate for identification; however, individuals who are identified as direct descendents can appoint tribes or other groups as their agents.
5. Remains left unidentified, should be curated and respectfully stored for further scientific study pending new forensic technology which will eventually result in accurate identification. Access to these remains should be free and available to all that wish to view or study them. This may take many years or even centuries. Accuracy in identification is the most critical issue.
6. This is a private issue between the people represented by the remains and their direct descendents. Taxpayer money should not be utilized except for excavation and storage. Those claiming ownership of the remains should pay for the testing used to identify their kin.
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