8 January 2008

Sherry Hutt, Manager
National NAGPRA Program
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW, 20006-2253
Washington, D.C. 20240

Ref: NSC Alliance Comments on Docket No. 1024-AC84

The Natural Science Collections Alliance, the largest professional organization
of natural history museums in North America, opposes the proposed changes
to the regulations governing application of the Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA).

The overarching reasons for our opposition to the proposed changes to rules
governing the disposition of culturally unidentifiable human remains and
associated funerary objects are three:

1) Proposed changes to NAGPRA regulations will have the effect of requiring
repatriation of human remains to groups that do not meet NAGPRA
requirements for demonstration of cultural affiliation. The proposal would
substitute for the statutory requirements alternative criteria that the
proposal itself recognizes do not constitute cultural affiliation under
NAGPRA. The regulations also imply that funerary objects associated with
culturally unaffiliated human remains also must be repatriated.

2) Museums have property rights and other legal bases for preserving these
items in perpetuity. They also have important research and educational
interests in their retention and study. The National Park Service (NPS)
regulatory proposal to require museums to give up scientifically important
human remains and, perhaps, associated funerary objects without a
demonstration of cultural affiliation is not in accordance with NAGPRA—the
statute upon which the proposal is based—and thus would be illegal if
promulgated.

3) Requiring transfer of items to unaffiliated tribes or other native
organizations would preclude the opportunity to transfer the items to
affiliated tribes and native organizations in the future if affiliated entities are
determined to exist. Such a requirement would not only cause injury to
museums, but would also prejudice the rights under NAGPRA of those
culturally affiliated tribes and entities whose interests the statute is
intended to protect and advance.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns about the proposed
changes to NAGPRA rules. I, or members of the NSC Alliance Board of
Directors, would be happy to discuss NSC Alliance concerns with you in
person. Please feel free to contact me or the NSC Alliance director of public
policy, Robert Gropp, if we may provide additional information. Dr. Gropp may
be reached at 202-628-1500.

Sincerely,

Michael A. Mares, Ph.D.
President

To download a PDF copy of the letter, click NSCA Comments on NAGPRA