Professors sue to stop ancient bones transfer
Posted: 04/25/2012 08:36:46 AM PDT
The bones were discovered in 1976 during an excavation at University House, the traditional La Jolla home of the UC San Diego chancellor. The university was preparing to hand over the bones to the local Kumeyaay tribe when three UC professors filed a lawsuit Monday in Northern California to block the transfer.
Margaret Schoeninger of UC San Diego, Robert Bettinger of UC Davis and Timothy White of UC Berkeley argue that the bones are precious research objects and there is no evidence that they are Native American remains.
In a declaration, Schoeninger said the skeletons were not buried in a way consistent with ancient Kumeyaay practices and collagen taken from the bones indicated the two ate ocean fish and mammals different from that of the tribe.
"These are not Native Americans," said James McManis, a San Jose lawyer for the professors.
"We're sure where they're from," he told U-T San Diego (http://bit.ly/IgSIwF). "They had primarily a seafood diet, not the diet of any way of these tribes. They were a seafaring people. They could be traveling Irishmen who touched on the continent.
"The idea that we're going to turn this incredible treasure over to some local tribe because they think it's Grandma's bones is crazy."
Respecting Native American preferences, the university has not permitted DNA testing of the bones, which are being kept at the San Diego Archaeological Center in Escondido.
In anticipation of the professors' suit, a dozen bands of Kumeyaay filed their own federal suit earlier this month, demanding transfer of the skeletons.
By law, Native American remains held by federal agencies or institutions receiving federal funds must be given to Native Americans. That includes unidentified remains found on aboriginal lands, said Dorothy Alther, an attorney for the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee, which represents the 12 bands.
"A lot of the tribes were concerned that their ancestors were lying around in the basements of museums and not being properly interred," she said.
"What we're saying is that these are Native American remains," Alther said. "But even if someone says they are not, they were found on aboriginal lands. They go to the Kumeyaay." [So if I go and commit suicide or die of natural causes, undiscovered, on this "aboriginal land", will the Kumeyaay claim me as their own if my bones bleach out in the sun for a couple of years? What about a dog? A donkey? A coyote? A cow? Are they Kumeyaay too? Hey, I've got some coprolites for you - will you claim those as Kumeyaay too?]
The university is aware of the competing lawsuits, spokesman Jeff Gattas said in a statement.
"We believe the University process has achieved a decision that is in accordance with both the law and our commitment to the respectful handling of human remains and associated artifacts," he said.
*****************************************The law in question: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
I hope that attorney representing the attorney chokes on a chicken bone. I wonder if her throat scratches the hell out of her every time she talks out of both sides of her mouth, Oh She Of Forked Tongue and Hypocricy.
In this day and age, when we KNOW that people were travelling here - and possibly even back to the Old World - via water-going craft from both Europe and Asia during the last Ice Age, as well as by foot over the Bering Land Bridge - it is absolutely ridiculous to just assume oh, those MUST be Native American remains. There is a way to settle this - and probably definitely prove one way or another - whether those bones belong to the Kumeyaay tribe. DNA. Because the skeletons haven't been tested, we have no idea, really, who they are or where they came from. The presumption built into this law is WRONG WRONG WRONG. AND, EVEN WORSE, it is deliberately being used by the tribes to block the advancement of scientific, ethnographic, archaeological and anthropological knowledge.
Tribes are using the law as a bludgeon to prevent scientific tests going forth on human remains in order to preserve their myths of being the one and only people who were here first (planted by the gods because, you know, they've ALWAYS been here according to their religious myths) as the one and only truth. It's baloney, of course, but oh, sensibilities must be protected. Yeah, we can stick the equivalent of a cattle prod up the vagina and into the uterus of a woman who wants to get an abortion because she's been raped but we won't DNA test old bones because some Indian tribe - any Indian tribe - objects, and Heaven Forbid we don't want to offend them.