July 18, 2001

The Honorable Darrell Steinberg
California State Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assembly Member Steinberg:

As President of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), I am writing you to express our continuing opposition to AB 978, the proposed California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Although the bill has been amended in ways that address some of the issues that were the basis for our initial letter of opposition, the amended version contains several inequitable provisions that are likely to place it in frequent conflict with NAGPRA, will pose serious problems of implementation and enforcement, and will create unnecessary conflict between Native Americans, museums, agencies, scientists, and the interested public. Most notably:

The bill creates an extremely unbalanced review commission with authority to determine state cultural affiliation, order repatriation, and levy fines comprising 7 voting members from the Native American community and just 3 members from the museum, agency, and academic communities. This disparity in the representation of these communities, which approach the problem of cultural affiliation and repatriation from very different perspectives, will work against the kind of cooperation and compromise that national experience has shown is essential to the repatriation process and which NAGPRA sought to establish. The NAGPRA Review Committee, which comprises 3 members nominated by the Native American community, 3 by the scientific and museum communities, and 1 from a list submitted by the other members, provides a better model that has worked admirably from its inception.

The bill authorizes repatriation to state-recognized tribes that are not federally-recognized, which is in direct conflict with NAGPRA. As we noted in our initial letter of opposition, SAA is not opposed to this in principle, provided an appropriate means is found for defining "state recognition." Unfortunately, the amended version of AB 978 does not address this problem, which is sure to create confusion and controversy within and between all of the communities who have a stake in the repatriation process.

The bill establishes unrealistic deadlines that will create an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between the Native American community and museums, agencies, and academic institutions. AB 978 requires museums to contest written repatriation claims within 30 days, which is generally insufficient to evaluate such claims properly, particularly claims that do not contain specific information regarding their basis (e.g., sacred tribal knowledge). Museums, agencies, and academic institutions will then routinely be forced to contest claims, and become an adversary of tribes, simply to remain in compliance with NAGPRA, which requires careful evaluation of available evidence. SAA believes that deadlines are an essential component of the repatriation process. AB 978's unrealistic deadlines, however, will create adversarial relationships that did not previously exist between the Native American, museum, agency, and academic communities, and in this way work against the spirit of cooperation and compromise NAGPRA was intended to establish.

SAA remains opposed to AB 978 and strongly urges amending it to establish a more evenly balanced review commission with appropriate, discrete authority, provide an appropriate means for identifying those "state recognized tribes" with standing in the repatriation process, and extend claim deadlines to permit tribes, museums, agencies, and academic institutions to work collaboratively on repatriation claims.



Robert L Kelly, Ph.D.

cc: bill co-authors

Assembly Member Dion Aroner
State Capitol - Room 2163
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2014

Assembly Member Thomas M. Calderon
State Capitol - Room 2013
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2058

Assembly Member Wilma Chan
State Capitol - Room 4098
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2016

Assembly Member Dario Frommer
State Capitol - Room 2160
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2043

Assembly Member Dave Kelley
State Capitol - Room 4162
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2080

Assembly Member Paul Koretz
State Capitol - Room 2176
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2042

Assembly Member Joe Nation
State Capitol - Room 3126
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2006

Assembly Member Robert Pacheco
State Capitol - Room 4177
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2060

Assembly Member Fran Pavley
State Capitol - Room 5144
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2041

Assembly Member Tony Strickland
State Capitol - Room 4009
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2037

Assembly Member Virginia Strom-Martin
State Capitol - Room 3146
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2001

Assembly Member Juan Vargas
State Capitol - Room 2188
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2079

Assembly Member Carl Washington
State Capitol - Room 2136
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2052

Assembly Member Herb Wesson
State Capitol - Room 3013
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319-2047

Senator Dede Alpert
State Capitol - Room 5050
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-3952

Senator Jim Battin
State Capitol - Room 3074
Sacramento, CA 95814

Senator John L. Burton
State Capitol - Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

Senator Wesley Chesbro
State Capitol - Room 4081
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-3375

Senator Liz Figueroa
State Capitol - Room 2057
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-6671

Senator Betty Karnette
State Capitol - Room 5066
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-6447

Senator Sheila James Kuehl
State Capitol - Room 4032
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-1353

Senator Tom McClintock
State Capitol - Room 3070
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-8873

Senator Edward Vincent
State Capitol - Room 5052
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-2104