Native American Concerns Committee - March 2003

Al Tonetti, Committee Chair

OAC to Submit amicus curiae (friend of the court) Brief in Kennewick Man Decision Appeal

At the request of OAC member Brad Lepper, the Board of Directors (BOD) has authorized the preparation of a friend of the court brief in support of the scientists in the appeal of the decision by the U.S. District Court of Oregon to permit study of the human remains and associated material remains of Kennewick Man. Appeals were filed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and a group of federally recognized Indian tribes who submitted a friend of the court brief in the original case. Through OAC Trustee and BOD Al Tonetti, the BOD is working with Brad Lepper to write and submit the brief. Former OAC member and attorney Bradley Baker offered pro bono legal assistance in filing the brief, which was accepted. The brief is due in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in mid-April. The brief will be posted on our website. The focus of the brief will be on the standards of evidence used in NAGPRA to determine cultural affiliation. Other organizations are likely to file friend of the court briefs on behalf of the scientists, including the SAA. The OAC is submitting a brief because we and attorneys for the scientists in the case feel it is important that the judges hearing the appeal realize that their decision will set a precedent for the disposition of Native American human remains maintained by Federally-funded museums in Ohio, not just in the Ninth Circuit (covering the west coast, Hawaii and Alaska), and that the determination of cultural affiliation is the key to this and all other decisions under NAGPRA where lineal descent is not established.

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