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Archaeopolitics:

Donald Forsyth Craib

With only a few months of legislative work remaining in the second session of the 105th Congress, it seems appropriate to report on the status of legislation that SAA is currently lobbying for. Please refer to the government affairs page on the SAAweb for a more detailed analysis of these issues and position statements on many of them. If you would like to check on the status of this legislation, go to the Library of Congress's legislative site at http://thomas.loc.gov.


Amendments to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

Three bills were introduced in the 105th Congress to amend NAGPRA. S. 110 and H.R. 749 would add another requirement when human remains of Native American ancestry are intentionally excavated or removed for purposes of study by requiring written consent from lineal descendants, if known or readily ascertainable, or from the appropriate Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization. The amendment also requires that Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations be notified when human remains are inadvertently discovered on federal land.

H.R. 2893 would increase the opportunity for scientific study of human remains and cultural items; would remove a provision for the return of cultural items to tribes lacking affiliation to the items based only on recent land use; and would clarify NAGPRA's language concerning the treatment of inadvertent discoveries of human remains and objects.

Hearings have not yet been scheduled and action on the bills is uncertain at this time.


Fiscal Year 1999 Appropriations

The appropriations bill for programs important to the archaeological community originates in the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. In March SAA, along with the Society for Historical Archaeology and the American Anthropological Association, presented testimony before the subcommittee arguing for an increase in funding for these important programs. The subcommittee will make up legislation early this summer, at which time the bill goes to the full Appropriations Committee for action. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin consideration of appropriations legislation once it passes the House.


Amendments to the Antiquities Act

H.R. 1127 would sharply curtail the president's authority to designate national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The bill would place new limits on the size of a tract of land that could be given protected status under the act.

On October 7, 1997, the House passed H.R. 1127. The vote was 229 to 197, far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a threatened presidential veto. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in February on S. 474, the Senate companion bill. Action by the Senate is uncertain at this time.


Legislation to Restrict Designation of World Heritage Sites

H.R. 901 would amend the National Historic Preservation Act by prohibiting the Secretary of the Interior from nominating any federal lands for inclusion on the World Heritage List unless the nomination is specifically approved first by Congress. Currently there are 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, including Mesa Verde National Park, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park, and Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The bill essentially would "delist" the existing 20 sites by the year 2000 unless authorized by Congress.

In October 1997 the House passed H.R. 901; in February the Senate held a hearing on the issue.


Reauthorization of the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF)

Reauthorization of the HPF is critical to the continued success of the country's commitment to its national historic preservation program. Appropriations from the HPF are used to support the programs of state and tribal historic preservation offices as well as other important programs. H.R. 1522 extends reauthorization for the HPF through fiscal year 2002. The House Resources Committee has marked up the legislation, and it now awaits floor action.

If you have any questions about these or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at donald_craib@saa.org.

Donald Forsyth Craib is manager, government affairs, and counsel for the Society for American Archaeology.


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