The NAGPRA proposed rule on culturally unidentifiable individuals: What the proposed rule reveals about the U.S. political process and justice for Native Americans
The Department of the Interior's Proposed Rule on "Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains" (CUI), published in the Federal Register on October 16, 2007, addresses the problems of Native American remains unaffiliated with federally recognized tribes. The disposition of CUI is not adequately addressed through the current Native Americans Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) because NAGPRA only applies to tribes that are federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This paper addresses whether an amendment to NAGPRA will provide justice for Native Americans. The Proposed Rule establishes a precedent that could chip away at the special status of federally recognized Native American tribes while creating a federal law that critics claim is vague and difficult to implement. This is an examination of the politics behind the Proposed Rule, revealing that Native American interests were largely excluded from the drafting of the Proposed Rule. This essay highlights debates over the Proposed Rule and also touches on issues of tribal identity and archaeologists' responsibilities toward indigenous groups and heritage preservation.