October 12, 2007

The meaning of "is" in NAGPRA

Harjo:  It's time to put NAGPRA back together againThe reason the new legislation is necessary is because of a misreading of the NAGPRA definition by judges in the case of the Ancient One (aka, "Kennewick Man"). In their zeal to allow federal and federally funded scientists to continue to slice and dice the 9,000 remains, the judges said that when Congress used the word "is" in the 1990 definition, it meant to include only those human remains that post-dated the establishment of the United States. Because the Ancient One pre-dated the United States, they said NAGPRA did not apply.

At the time of negotiation and congressional consideration of NAGPRA, no scientific organization, no federal agency, no Native American, no museum and no one on Capitol Hill was confused by the definition of "Native American." Everyone understood that NAGPRA applied to human remains and sacred objects pre-dating the United States.
Why it matters:By redefining the NAGPRA definition, the court was able to hold that NAGPRA did not apply to the Ancient One at all. Instead, the court ruled that the Archaeological Resources Protection Act did apply and gave the human remains to scientists to study. Ironically, NAGPRA was enacted in order to recognize Native American human rights and to get away from ARPA, under which Native people are federal archaeological resources and property and not human beings.

The court ruling created a legal fiction that perpetuated a deception that studies had not already been conducted on the Ancient One. Kennewick scientists actually are advancing a white supremacist theory. In obscure pseudo-scientific legalese, they whisper to reporters and others that they are on a mission to find out if Kennewick Man is a white man and to prove that Europeans were here before Native peoples. They leave out the part that they studied the Ancient One before going to court and already concluded that he was Native and not European.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Talk about 'the letter of the law!' Of course, maybe they meant that 'Patrick Stewart IS Captain Jean-Luc Picard.' Or 'William Shatner IS Captain James Tiberius Kir,' Or that 'Kate Mulgrew IS Captain Katherine Janeway.' Isn't that how EuroMan's laws ALWAYS work?
All Best
Russ Baes