WASHINGTON -- Nearly two decades after the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed federal auditors say the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and other key federal agencies that all have significant collections of Native American remains and cultural objects have not fully complied with NAGPRA.
The results of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act: After Almost 20 Years, Key Federal Agencies Still Have Not Fully Complied with the Act," will be discussed at the 12th annual meeting of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers or NATHPO hosted by the Oneida Tribe ofWisconsin Aug. 9-13 in Green Bay, Wis.
After decades of desecration or sending Native American human remains to museums or anthropology labs for study, Congress enacted NAGPRA in 1990 to protect indigenous human remains and cultural objects. The law also requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American human remains and cultural items to their respective families and tribal homelands. The agencies and museums are required to take inventory and notify tribes about their collections and work in collaboration with tribes in determining a cultural link to the remains or objects. But some federal agencies have not identified or reported all the remains or cultural items in their possession, according to the GAO report.
Representatives from the GAO, including lead auditor Jeff Malcom, assistant director of the GAO Natural Resources and Environment Team, on Aug. 11 will discuss their findings, conclusions and recommendations of the recently published report.
"Native people from around the country are gathering next week to come together and talk about pressing cultural issues in Indian country, with a focus on the GAO report on NAGPRA," NATHPO General Chairman Reno Franklin said.
On Aug. 10, President Obama-appointee Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, will discuss challenges to protecting tribal cultural properties and share his experiences in working with Indian country as the California State Historic Preservation Officer. Donaldson will also address challenges and changes, and accept recommendations from tribal historic preservation officers for the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement and productive use of our nation's historic resources. The council advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.
On Aug. 9, NATHPO will host an all-day pre-conference NAGPRA training session on how to use the newly finalized NAGPRA regulations (43 CFR 10.11) to return "culturally unidentifiable" Native American remains and associated funerary objects. Cost of the meeting is between $100 and $600, depending on membership.
Additional activities include tours of the Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center, Library & Museum, the Menominee Cultural Museum and Menominee Logging Museum and the Oneida Nation Museum. Burton W. Warrington, Policy Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, will address the assembly on Aug. 10. Also on Aug. 10, National Park Service representatives will discuss current and emerging Park and Tribal issues and innovative partnerships, including gathering of plant materials for traditional uses.
Founded in 1998, the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers is the only national non- profit membership organization of tribal government officials who are committed to preserving, rejuvenating and improving the status of tribal cultures and practices by supporting Native languages, arts, dances, music, oral traditions, cultural properties, tribal museums, tribal cultural centers, and tribal libraries. NATHPO activities include monitoring the Congress, administration and state activities on issues that affect tribes.