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SACRAMENTO — State Senate leaders chastised UC Berkeley administrators Tuesday for trampling on the civil rights of Native Americans by not returning the remains of thousands of their ancestors held in storage at a campus museum.
Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the incoming Senate leader, accused the university of discriminating against Native Americans by keeping the bones and artifacts at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology despite federal and state laws that established procedures for returning them years ago.
“If there were remains of my ancestors, European Americans, in the Hearst museum at one of the most respected universities in the country, there would be an absolute outcry from people, and I guarantee you something would be done about it quickly,” Steinberg told university officials at a hearing of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. “But because they’re Native American remains, somehow it is different.”
For more than 40 years, the bones of about 12,000 Native Americans have been kept in drawers and cabinets under the swimming pool of the Hearst Gymnasium, next door to the museum. Most of the bones were dug up by university archaeologists in the first half of the 20th century.
Under the 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and a similar 2001 state law written by Steinberg, the museum is required to identify the origins of bones and artifacts in its collection and return them to the tribes they came from. So far the museum has repatriated the bones of about 260 individuals.
UC Berkeley triggered new controversy over the bones in June when it eliminated the staff unit within the museum that was responsible for working with tribes and facilitating the return of the remains.
Steinberg, who is not a committee member but participated in the hearing, said that some university academics opposed the return of the remains because the loss of the collection would reduce the university’s standing. “The real reason why there was not a more aggressive posture by the university to repatriate is because there is a whole lot of pressure from the academic side,” he said. “They don’t want all these remains or artifacts returned because that would impugn, in their view, the research capability of the university.”
(Posted on February 27, 2008)
It will indeed be a cold day in hell before any Euro-American skeletal remains within the the current geo-political boundaries of the the USA are forcibly archived against the wishes of kinfolk with verifiable standing in such a case.
Posted by Flaxen-headed Strumpet at 8:07 PM on February 27
““If there were remains of my ancestors, European Americans, in the Hearst museum at one of the most respected universities in the country, there would be an absolute outcry from people, and I guarantee you something would be done about it quickly,” Steinberg told… “
WRONG: Universities across the world hold the remains of tens of thousands of Europeans for research and study. Apparently this ignoramus has never heard of the peat bog remains for instance. And there is NO PROTEST AT ALL.
These Indian bones are for the most part ANCIENT and have NO relationship whatsoever with any living tribe today. Tribes in the Americas were in a constant state of flux and movement, of slaughters and conquest. And the Americas were settled by a series of migrations from Siberia, and possibly Europe. The FIRST arrivals were Caucasian (Kennewick man for example). So the fact some tribe was living in some region when the first Europeans arrived does not mean that any remains found in that region was their ancestors.
This is a PRIME example of the FULL FRONTAL ATTACK on science and knowledge by the Left, that has DEVASTATED the field of anthropology. There is no written history from the ancient peoples of the Americas. The ONLY means to study that history is from remains such as these.
Posted by at 9:02 PM on February 27
Native American’s view of ancestor remains is Stone Age and should not count. Scienctific study of the bones is much more valuable than catering to their primitive superstitions, IMHO.
Posted by at 10:39 PM on February 27
Sen. Steinberg must also believe the Egyptians are “racist” for refusing to bury King Tut and the other mummies on display.
Posted by Lothrop Stoddard at 2:06 AM on February 28
If there were remains of my ancestors, European Americans, in the Hearst museum at one of the most respected universities in the country, there would be an absolute outcry from people
There are hundreds of European bones scattered in various collections and not those of the relatives of recent inhabitants of the country, and no-one mentions it. Why on earth should be anyone offended?
Heck, I wouldn’t even object to someone digging my own bones after a couple of hundreds years and studying them.
Posted by EW at 4:42 AM on February 28
“And de earbone connected to de jawbone,” explained Sen. Darrell “Styx” Steinberg yesterday. “While federal clout may enforce integration in life, it is imperative that we maintain segregation in death.” Have you noticed how ghoulish we’ve become? Leaden, forensic drama fills the airwaves. Traffic snarls for miles on the freeway as drivers brake and crane their necks to view in disappointment some poor guy change a flat. And, yet, from the sight of a dead hound whose legs went frozen and straight the instant that car hit him, we avert our eyes. Creepy.
(As the speeding roadster of multicultural expectation slams into the looming semi of diesel-driven DNA … we’ll save that metaphor for later.)
Posted by Robert Binion at 7:23 AM on February 28
“WRONG: Universities across the world hold the remains of tens of thousands of Europeans for research and study. Apparently this ignoramus has never heard of the peat bog remains for instance. And there is NO PROTEST AT ALL.”
Posted by at 9:02 PM on February 27
Another example is the highly publicized case of a Bronze Age European recovered from a melting glacier in the Alps. He is still under study and on permanent display.
Posted by at 11:15 PM on February 28
So-called indigenous peoples have a massive stake in their being seen as innocent, peaceful natives at one with nature when the murderous, disease-bringing crazed slaving genocidal Europeans came. The refusal of access to archaeological sites based on sacred sites, tribal law or some other excuse is a way towards this. Another method is the return of bodies to the tribe in which they were found - think of it as removing the primary evidence which an investigator has to work with.
Posted by AK at 2:15 PM on March 2
Try Googling the word ossuary. You will find that under the city of Paris there are catacombs containing millions of human skeletons. But the bones are sorted into separate stacks of skulls, leg bones, etc. No attempt to keep the bones of any single individual together. Similar practices are to be found all through Europe in ancient monasteries, etc. The bones of ancient Native Americans are treated by museums with much more reverence than the Europeans have treated the bones of their own ancestors.
Posted by PW at 10:19 PM on March 3