Last year, the U.S. District Court of Oregon ruled that former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit's decision to repatriate the 9,000-year-old human remains known as Kennewick Man to a coalition of Native American tribes was contrary to law. The District Court firmly overruled Babbit's decision and determined that NAGPRA did not apply to human remains of such antiquity, thereby opening the door for scientists to study this ancient skeleton. The Department of the Interior and a coalition of Native American tribes appealed the District Court's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
At the request of OAC members Brad Lepper and Al Tonetti, Chair of the Native American Concerns Committee, the OAC's Board of Directors decided to add our voice to that of other scientists concerned about regulatory efforts to reinterpret NAGPRA so as to virtually preclude the study of culturally unaffiliated human remains. Brad Lepper and Al Tonetti worked with former OAC member and attorney Brad Baker to write and submit an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the U.S. District Court's decision. The brief focuses on evidence used for determining cultural affiliation under NAGPRA. We are posting the complete brief here on our website to keep our members and all others interested in this matter informed.
More information about the Kennewick Man case, including copies of legal briefs submitted by all parties to this litigation, can be found at the Friends of America's Past website.
View or print the OAC Kennewick Man Brief.
The OAC has officially entered the "Internet Age" with the fully electronic publication of our Newsletter. This first "E-issue" is still a bit simplistic, given that we are still trying to decide how best to present the content. It is also a bit "thin" since I received no submissions of articles or news from the membership. This, I hope, will change as our members become used to accessing the OAC website for their news and information.
The OAC Board of Directors met on February 27 to discuss a number of important issues, which included plans for Archaeology Week 2003, the election of a new Trustee position on the Board, the publication of our conference volumes on the Early Woodland, Archaic, and Historical periods, and proposed revisions to the Code of Regulations. You will be given updates on all these issues and more during our next membership meeting on Friday, May 16 in Columbus. In addition, President-elect Bob Riordan has prepared a very interesting program on CRM Archaeology for the spring meeting, so please plan to attend.Finally, we were all saddened when Sandy Yee announced her resignation from the Board. She has begun a new position as Guam Office Manager for the International Archaeological Research Institute. Linda Whitman has agreed to take over the chair of the Education Committee, and Matt Purtill was selected by the Board to assume the remainder of Sandy's Trusteeship and will serve as chair of the Grants Committee. As many of you know, Sandy has been a very dedicated and hard-working member and Trustee of the OAC. One of her most significant contributions was the founding of Ohio's Archaeology Week. Thank you, Sandy.
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.
President Bush's Executive Order: Preserve America
On March 3, 2003, President Bush issued the "Preserve America" executive order (EO) declaring that "it is the policy of the Federal Government to provide leadership in preserving America's heritage by actively advancing the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of historic properties owned by the Federal Government, and by promoting intergovernmental cooperation and partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties." The EO appears to be primarily designed to help stimulate the economy ("contemporary use") by pursuing partnerships between the public and private sectors "to realize the economic benefit that these [historic] properties can provide."
Among other things, the EO requires that by September 30, 2004, Federal agencies "prepare an assessment of the current status of its inventory of historic properties [including] an evaluation of the suitability of the agency's types of historic properties to contribute to community economic development initiatives, including heritage tourism"; review its regulations, policies and procedures for compliance with Sections 110 and 111 of the National Historic Preservation Act; and requires that by March 31, 2004, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation submit "recommendations to further stimulate initiative, creativity, and efficiency in the Federal stewardship of historic properties." The full text the EO can be read at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030304-9.html.
National Park Service (NPS) Archaeologists an Endangered Species?
Congress Cuts Historic Preservation Funds for FY03
Almost half way into the federal fiscal year (FY), October 1 - September 30, Congress finally approved funding for 11 government agencies. Although funds for the NPS were slightly increased, Historic Preservation Funds (HPF) providing the bulk of operating funds for State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) were cut by $5 million, to $34 million. President Bush's proposed FY04 budget keeps the HPF at $34 million. This figure represents a $12.6 million decrease in state funds since 2001. Given the deficits most states are running it is likely that a level HPF in FY04 will result in service cuts and staff layoffs for SHPOs, threatening to adversely effect federal efforts to streamline environmental review decision making processes and state efforts to reverse the faltering economy.
S.288, the Indian Contracting and Federal Land Management Demonstration Project Act
Introduced February 4, 2003, and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs, this bill is a revised version of a similar bill from the last Congress. It seeks to establish 24 $100,000 grants over two years for Indian tribes or tribal organizations to conduct "archaeological, anthropological, and cultural surveys and analyses, and activities relating to the identification, maintenance, or protection of land considered to have religious, ceremonial, or cultural significance to the Indian tribe or tribal organization." You can access the bill at www.thomas.loc.gov.
S.180 and HR280, the National Aviation Heritage Act
Introduced in January 2003, and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Resources, respectively, these bills would create the National Aviation Heritage Area in west-central Ohio and east-central Indiana. The purpose of the National Aviation Heritage Area is to preserve, interpret, develop educational and cultural programs, promote heritage tourism and economic development, and develop and implement a management plan for aviation-related historical resources. It authorizes the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to provide technical assistance and up to $1 million in matching funds annually for 15 years to develop and implement the management plan for the Heritage Area.
HB 675, Capital Appropriations for FY03-04
This bill was introduced on December 3, 2002, quickly passed by both houses of the last (124th) General Assembly, and signed 10 days later by the Governor on December 13, 2002. It appropriates funds for capital improvements from July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2004, and took effect March 14, 2003.
House Select Committee Studying the Effectiveness of Ohio's Historical Programs and Partnerships
With the end of the last General Assembly on December 31, 2002, the bills introduced to address some of the recommendations contained in the Select Committee's final report died, as did the Select Committee's authority. Select Committee Chair Metzger no longer serves in the General Assembly. Vice Chair of the Select Committee, Rep. Hollister, who serves in the 125th General Assembly, indicated in a letter to the OAC that any recommendations from Select Committee concerning the Ohio Historical Society's operations would likely be dealt with in the budget process, not through legislation. This will make it very difficult for the OAC to address the concerns stated, and changes recommended, in our testimony in late 2001 and early 2002. The OAC will monitor the budget process as best we can to see if any of our recommendations are acted upon.
As of March 17, no bills directly affecting archaeology have been introduced into the 125th General Assembly.
Currently, the Grants Committee is considering one application for the Patricia Essenpreis Memorial Grant. The project involves petrographic analyses of a small sample of pottery sherds from the Fort Ancient SunWatch Village site. The Grants Committee will be reviewing this application in the near future.