For more info and to see tribal resolutions that have come in, please visit the NAGPRA coalition blog at http://nagpra-ucb-faq.blogspot.com. There is also a press release is posted at http://nagpra-ucb.blogspot.com, along with tribal resolutions and tools of protest.
**Note, I am not the author of this, but as a Native grad student and active community member at UCB, I have followed it closely and written letters to the Chancellor and even contacted the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, to no avail. Its time to spread the word and show that this is not just wrong, it is a blatant violation of federal law. Thanks, and I hope the timing of this info being sent out will strengthen, and be strengthened by the situation of the 'Jena 6" -thefroggirl (Danika)
Dear Tribes and supporters:
He stiffed us.
UCB Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stiffed seven sovereign tribal governments and the growing membership of the Native American NAGPRA Coalition – completely, utterly, with absolute self-certainty. First he ignored our letter requesting a meeting; then he used the intervention of the Governor’s office to drag out a long negotiation so he could diminish our energy and divide and conquer the Native American community. On Thursday, Associate Vice Chancellor Cummins demanded a personal meeting with our representative only to tell him that the NAGPRA reorganization would proceed as planned, the Chancellor would not reopen the discriminatory review process and would have nothing to do with the Coalition. By his actions, Chancellor Birgeneau has endorsed Vice Chancellor Burnside’s “Absolute no” to Native American representation. He did this after receiving countless letters, emails, phone calls, and tribal resolutions condemning the exclusion of all Native Americans from a decision process that disbanded the one University group charged with protecting Native rights over the ancestral remains and sacred objects that belong to tribes!
We cannot let this pass. The issue is too important.
We are not just talking about human remains; we are talking about human rights and respect for the self determination of Native people. Robert J. Birgeneau is the Chancellor of a public university, an institution of government. Our government acknowledges, as a basic human right, every other group’s moral and spiritual claim to their ancestors’ remains. With the passage of NAGPRA, we hoped the government had finally acknowledged the full human rights of Native Americans. Apparently it hasn’t, not if Birgeneau’s decision stands. The University’s action represents the worst form of paternalism that says, “We know what’s best for Native American people; we’ll decide how their ancestors are treated. We’ll consult with them, but only after we’ve made all of the important decisions, which they are not competent to make themselves.” By ignoring seven sovereign tribal governments, Chancellor Birgeneau has ignored the full humanity of Native American people.
This is a call to action.
We ask all Native American tribes – and all people who support basic human dignity – to stand with us against a powerful government institution in the name of human rights. Here are some things you can do:
Demonstrate your commitment to Native American rights on October 5 at UC Berkeley. We are asking all people to come if they possibly can. We understand that many tribes and supporters are located far away and that it is both financially and personally difficult to make the trip. But please try. A press release with details will follow.
Volunteer to organize the demonstration, lobby legislators, send emails, make telephone calls, type email addresses, etc. You need not be in Berkeley to help. Most of what is necessary can be done from home.
Target the Regents with phone calls, emails and letters. The issue is now in the Regents’ hands. You can email them as a group at firstname.lastname@example.org , but snail mail will work better. Go to http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/contact.html
for their individual addresses. You can also call the Regents at 510-987-9220 and the new acting UC system president, Wyatt Hume, at 510-987-9020.
Call your legislators and congressional representatives in your own districts and also Senators Barbara Boxer (415-403-0100) and Dianne Feinstein (415-393-0707). Feinstein is married to Richard Blum, the Chairman of the Regents. Also, contact State Senator Darrell Steinberg at 916-651-4006. Senator Steinberg authored the California NAGPRA legislation and cares deeply about Native Americans.
Resist “Divide and Conquer”: Now that the damage is done, Hearst Museum officials, at the behest of Vice Chancellor Beth Burnside, suddenly want to meet and “consult” with tribes about its new efforts at “outreach” to Native Americans. Outreach is fine, but at this point, it is being used as a diversion. Remember that administrators cynically excluded tribes from the review process that eliminated the NAGPRA unit because they knew Native Americans would object. They will not consult with you about reversing their decision, which they regard that as an established fact!
Native Americans can’t lose this one. Sovereign tribal rights must be respected when any institution makes a critical decision affecting ancestral remains, and this is especially true of UC Berkeley, which controls the second largest Native American collection in the Nation. If the Berkeley precedent stands, other Universities and Museums will follow suit. We have already received calls from Native Americans at institutions where officials are looking to UC Berkeley for guidance.
Human rights are at stake in this dispute. The Chancellor did more than just insult Native Americans; he refused to acknowledge the rights that the rest of humanity takes for granted.