Re: A Demand for the Kennewick Man's Remains

Mon, 25 Nov 1996 02:57:08 GMT wrote:

>On Sat, 23 Nov 1996, Stella Nemeth wrote:

>> wrote:

>(Lots of stuff that we both agree on snipped)

>> >Of course, a Euro-American claim on the skeleton is just the sort of
>> >proprietary politicking about ownership of the past that NAGPRA emerged
>> >as a response to.
>> Now we come to the real question. Why is the claim of a person who
>> happens to be "Euro-American" (only God knows if the man is or is not
>> of European background alone) more "proprietary politicking" than the
>> claims of Native Americans. This skeleton is thousands of years old.
>> The likelihood that the particular group of Native Americans which
>> claimed it being descendants of this skeleton is not great. In fact
>> it is probably quite unlikely.

>Yes, but it's a question of grouping rather than lumping. Look at all of
>the p.c. terms for Americans of various descent: African-, Native-,
>Asian-, Mexican-, &c. Very often, when people (probably mostly
>Euro-Americans) say "American," they are thinking of Euro-Americans. I
>say Euro-American in a conscious effort to avoid defining Americans as
>Euro-Americans. But that doesn't mean I'm always successful (see below).

Interesting. Well, I don't think of White Anglo Saxon Protestants
when I say "American". I think of me, for one. I think of Pablo, my
son-in-law for another. Neither of us is a White Anglo Saxon

When I say "American" I mean those people who have become, whether by
conscious choice or because they are basically a mutt and can no
longer figure out what to put in front of the hyphen, part of general
American culture. One of the things that separates out those people
who go around calling themselves [put word here]-Americans in general
conversation is that they have CHOSEN to separate themselves out.
Labeling someone with a hyphenated name, who doesn't chose to use such
a name, is rather insulting. ESPECIALLY when it doesn't realistically

I think there is an American culture. I know that people who's
grandparents started out in places like the Middle East, and Central
Europe and Africa and South America and [fill in the blank] have
chosen to be Americans. I know this because I've been surrounded by
people who keep telling me that they are not traditional [fill in the
blank] for most of my life.

>So in terms of NAGPRA, what we see happening in the politics of it is
[snip] Sorry, but I've got to cut some of this.

Basically you are saying that the law requires that Native American
tribes act within the law as separate entities, while the general
American population (which you claim is all Western European) is
permitted to act as a monolithic whole. If I didn't get that right,
just let me know and we will go through it one line at a time.

As far as I can tell the only way for the law to be fair is to do it
this way. If one tribe or another has a particular belief which is
different from the common American belief, then the law provides that
their belief will be given precedence for their own peoples, including
any bodies found that they can reasonably claim as their own.

Are you telling me that all Native American tribes require immediate
reburrial and no scientific investigation of all bones that they claim
as kin? Are you saying that there are no groups within the Native
American designation that would disagree with this? Why should those
smaller groups be forced to adhere to someone else's religion?
Especially when the law was specifically written to protect the small
group from the larger group in this specific case?

>Look at how things are classified through time -- older units are much
>more comprehensive than younger ones. The more recent something is, the
>more splitting we do, because we can recognize more variation. This goes
>for geological time, the drawing of evolutionary trees, "ages" of
>history, and so on. But what is going on here is that some people are
>trying to use recent splits as a basis for categorizing the distant past --
>knowing that the past can't be categorized that way. This is just
>another means to exercise control.

Exactly. And frankly I'm glad someone has called the Native Americans
who are demanding the body on this. They are trying to control what
isn't theirs.

>> >.... Because we Euro-Americans assumed that we know best,
>> >and that Science is good for everyone and everyone had better admit to that.
>> >Know what?
>> What is it with this **we** Euro-Americans? MY parents were born in
>> and/or grew up in Asia. You want to beat your chest and do the guilt
>> trip, please be my guest. But don't include me in. I am not
>> ethnically or genetically equiped to be classified as a
>> "Euro-American."

>Point taken. All I can say in my defense is that by the time I got that
>far in my post, I wasn't responding to you in particular so much as using
>your post as a stump from which to make my speech. Same with this one.
>The vast majority of the archaeologists I know (professional and amateur)
>are Euro-American, but you're right, that doesn't make them all that. Sorry.

I understand. Frankly, I think you did it again in the message I'm
responding to. I'm not taking it personally.

As for the idea that Euro-American archaeologists are the majority in
the field of archaeology in the US. Well what do you expect from a
bunch of folks who are in love with Native American cultures and
remains! <g>

Apology gratefully accepted. And I hope graciously too.

Stella Nemeth