Efforts to repatriate tribal property are hitting roadblocks within the Trump administration.
The Trump administration is refusing to take a position on a new cultural protection bill that expands on the legislation calling for the return of tribal items to their rightful place.
“These cultural items are continuing to leave and go across the seas to be sold”, says Governor Kurt Riley, a tribal leader, of the Pueblo of Acoma. Members of the Trump administration want to wait for the results of further study as tribal leaders are calling for immediate action. Given the ongoing sales of sacred cultural items in international markets, Governor Riley could think of no good reason to wait for the Government Accountability Office study, a process that could take many months to complete.
At the same time, Secretary Zinke has put a hold on a key advisory panel that was established by Congress to ensure compliance with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. The NAGPRA review committee is in limbo while the Interior department conducts their own review.
But Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) said the freeze in hindering efforts to return sacred items to their rightful place. Without clear U.S. law or policy, officials in France, where tribal items are regularly picked up for auction, have refused to return such items.
In hopes of addressing impasses at the international level, Udall and other lawmakers are pushing for passage of S.1400, the Safeguarding Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act. The bill bars the export of items that are otherwise covered in the U.S. by NAGPRA and other cultural protection laws.
Repatriation is extremely personal for tribes and their citizens. They are able to utilize NAGPRA to reclaim ancestors that were removed — sometimes inadvertently but in many cases, not — from their resting places. Items used in ceremonies and other practices can also be repatriated under the 1990 law. But once any items leave the U.S., it’s virtually impossible to get them back.
The STOP Act enjoys bipartisan support — six of the nine co-sponsors are Republicans. While the Trump administration’s silence on the bill might not hinder passage, it isn’t helping either, advocates argue.
Hi my name is (NAME) and I am a constituent from (city,zip) I’m calling today to ask (SENATOR OR CONGRESSMAN) to support S.1400-The Safeguarding of Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act. The bill bars the export of items that are otherwise covered by NAGPRA and other cultural protection laws.
I am concerned that the Trump administration is refusing to take a position on this bill and that Native American cultural items are continuing to leave the U.S and go across the seas to be sold.