From The President
At the fall Board meeting in November 1999, the budget for the coming year was approved and, by that time, the year-end financial position of the Society could be estimated with some confidence. I am pleased to report that by April 2000, SAA's reserves will have been restored to the target level of 30 percent of the annual operating budget [SAA Bulletin 1998, 16(5): 6]. This is a major accomplishment that has been achieved through superb management of the Society's operations by Executive Director Tobi Brimsek, great dedication by SAA staff working on very tight budgets, and with keen oversight by Treasurers Robert L. Bettinger and Jeffrey H. Altschul.
During the 3 years of rebuilding reserves, the Society was unable to fund major new initiatives. However, the budget approved for this year includes new funding for a half-time manager, Education and Outreach. This represents SAA's first commitment of permanent staff funding for public education. Gail William Brown has recently been hired. This is an exciting new initiative that should substantially enhance the effectiveness of our public education program. Brown will work closely with the Public Education Committee to accomplish key Society goals in public education.
Looking down the road, starting in January 2001, SAA Bulletin will be replaced by a longer, full-color magazine, The Professional Archaeologist. Like SAA Bulletin, The Professional Archaeologist will appear five times a year and will combine reports on current events with regular columns, information on SAA business, opinions, and articles. This change is made in recognition of the development and growth of SAA Bulletin, its useful mix of temporal and lasting content, and its importance to the membership. Current SAA Bulletin editor Mark Aldenderfer will launch this new publication and a new editor (for whom a search is just commencing) will take over in June 2001.
The eight months that I have been SAA president have been both rewarding and sometimes, exhausting. To provide insight into some of the Society's external activities, I will discuss some of the SAA actions in which I have been involved.
Repatriation issues have been a priority. In April, I presented SAA testimony to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs' oversight hearing on the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)[see SAA Bulletin 1999 17(5): 4]. My presentation on SAA's role in the development of national public policy on repatriation was the opening paper in the Clovis and Beyond Conference in Santa Fe in October 1999.
Since January 1998, either the SAA president or president-elect has represented SAA at all NAGPRA Review Committee meetings and has presented brief remarks at each meeting. Based on comments from Review Committee members and others in attendance, it is clear that SAA's presence is important in speaking for a balance of scientific interests with tribal concerns.
Last spring, SAA sent letters to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt regarding the frequent abuse of the NAGPRA's legal standard for "cultural affiliation" in making repatriation decisions and regarding the desirability of granting extensions for the completion of NAGPRA inventories to those museums that have made good-faith efforts to comply with the law. SAA also provided extensive written comments to the NAGPRA Review Committee on their Draft Principles of Agreement Regarding Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains (these comments appear on SAAweb).
In June, accompanied by a delegation of SAA members and staff, I presented the SAA's 1999 Public Service Award to Secretary Babbitt [SAA Bulletin 1999, 17(4):4]. We spent a considerable amount of time with the Secretary, and discussed concerns about the decline in cultural resource positions within the federal government, problems with the public interpretation of archaeology by NPS and other Interior agencies, the "gray" literature, and repatriation issues (including increased funding for NAGPRA coordination, the location of the NAGPRA coordination function within Interior, and the importance of maintaining NAGPRA's balance between the legitimate interests of tribes and the interests of science and the broader public).
At that meeting, the Secretary asked for SAA's help in obtaining a special designation for Perry Mesa, Arizona. He seeks this designation (such as National Monument status) in order to enhance the preservation and public interpretation of the outstanding and well-preserved cultural resources in this 100+ square-mile area. In response, I worked with the Secretary's office and the BLM on this plan, introduced the Secretary at two public appearances in Arizona to promote this initiative, and talked extensively with the press and Arizona's Congressional delegation about the importance of the archaeological resources and the benefits of National Monument status. This effort is ongoing.
In April, I was alerted to the fact that Wal-Mart was about to break ground on a parcel directly across the street from Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (in Arizona) in an area known to have intact cultural resources. The SAA Board took the position that Wal-Mart should either move the store to another location or implement a full program of testing and mitigation, even if not required by law. Our quick action (also endorsed by the Arizona Archaeological Council) and subsequent concerns expressed by several Arizona tribes, caused Wal-Mart to suspend the project. During the summer, Wal-Mart funded a full testing program that located significant cultural resources but revealed that a store could be located on the parcel in such a way that it would not disturb cultural resources. Wal-Mart agreed to relocate the store accordingly and to appropriate treatment of any resources disturbed during construction. However, the ultimate disposition of the portions of the parcel that contain significant cultural resources is still a subject of discussion.
The direct benefits of SAA membership, such as SAA Bulletin, the journals, and the Annual Meeting, are evident. From my own recent experience, I have tried to illustrate a few of the less obvious efforts that SAA undertakes for American archaeology. Of course, there are many other valuable initiatives that have been undertaken by SAA committees with the assistance of the SAA professional staff. I want to thank you for your continuing support of all these activities through your membership in SAA, with special appreciation to those who have generously contributed to SAA's Annual Giving campaign.
If you have any comments, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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