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Native American Graves Protection and

Repatriation Review Committee

Dispute Findings

NAGPRA Review Committee Advisory Findings and Recommendations Regarding Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Control of
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
February 10, 2000


[Federal Register: February 10, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 28)]
[Page 6621-6622]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



National Park Service

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review
Committee: Findings

AGENCY: National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: NAGPRA Review Committee Advisory Findings and Recommendations
Regarding Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Control
of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.


After full and careful consideration of the information and
statements submitted and presented by representatives of the Hopi Tribe
and Chaco Culture National Historical Park at its meetings on May 3-5,
1999 and November 18-20, 1999, the Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Review Committee (Review Committee) considers that:
1. On May 12, 1999, Chaco Culture National Historical Park
published a Notice of Inventory Completion regarding 265 Native
American human remains and 743 funerary objects. The park determined
the human remains and funerary objects to be culturally affiliated with
the Hopi Tribe of Arizona; Navajo Nation of Arizona, New Mexico, and
Utah; Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico; Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico;
Pueblo of Isleta, New Mexico; Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico; Pueblo of
Nambe, New Mexico; Pueblo of Picuris, New Mexico; Pueblo of Pojoaque,
New Mexico; Pueblo of San Felipe, New Mexico; Pueblo of San Ildefonso,
New Mexico; Pueblo of San Juan, New Mexico; Pueblo of Sandia, New
Mexico; Pueblo of Santa Ana, New Mexico; Pueblo of Santa Clara, New
Mexico; Pueblo of Santo Domingo, New Mexico; Pueblo of Taos, New
Mexico; Pueblo of Tesuque, New Mexico; Pueblo of Zia, New Mexico; and
the Zuni Tribe of Zuni Reservation, New Mexico.
2. The Hopi Tribe disputed the park's determinations of cultural
affiliation, arguing that:
a. Proper tribe-by-tribe consultation was not performed by the
b. The park did not apply a rigorous standard in weighing the
evidence in making determinations of cultural affiliation; and
c. Determinations of cultural affiliation must be made on an
object-by-object basis, rather than globally for the park as a whole.
3. Chaco Culture National Historical Park answered these objections
by pointing to a nine-year record of tribal consultations. The park
also argued that there is cultural continuity within Chaco Canyon
dating to the Archaic Period (pre 1 AD) and that as such, there was no
value in assessing cultural affiliation for each site individually. The
park defended its determinations of cultural affiliation on the grounds
that a broad range of both scientific and traditional evidence had been
used. It was also noted that given the complex history of Chaco Canyon,
and the strong

[[Page 6622]]

traditional attachment that the place held for many tribes, it was not
surprising that many groups should be considered culturally affiliated.
On hearing all of the evidence presented, the Review Committee
finds that the complaints made by the Hopi Tribe have merit. While the
Review Committee recognizes the efforts made in the area of tribal
consultation, tribes were not given adequate opportunity to consult on
a one-to-one basis and to make their concerns known outside of a public
forum. The Review Committee also agrees with the Hopi Tribe that more
is needed in the evaluating and weighing of the evidence for
establishing cultural affiliation. Rather than a rigorous determination
of cultural affiliation, the park seems to have applied a much looser
criterion of cultural relationship to geographical place, as a basis
for determining culturally affiliated tribes. The park's global
approach to the assessment Chaco archeological sites, effectively
precluded any realistic assessment of cultural affiliation based on
specific site features, dates, or cultural practices. Likewise, sites
with virtually no contextual information were treated as culturally
affiliated. The global approach to site assessment and affiliation
resulted in a determination of cultural affiliation for all Chaco
Canyon remains with all groups expressing cultural relationship to the
It is the recommendation of the Review Committee that the Chaco
Culture National Historical Park withdraw its published Notice if
Inventory Completion and reassess its determination of cultural
affiliation. The Review Committee recommends that this reassessment
specifically consider the following issues:
1. Determination of cultural affiliation should be made on a site-
by-site basis, assessing each site based on the specific data
2. While collective consultation can be useful, it should not be
used in lieu of individual tribal consultation when requested by an
Indian tribe;
3. A proper determination of cultural affiliation necessarily
requires the critical evaluation and careful weighing of all available
evidence. This weighing should emphasize group identity, time period,
specific cultural practices, and traceable cultural continuity;
4. The park should take steps to ensure the objective character of
the determinations of cultural affiliation of the human remains and
other cultural items in the control of the park. The process the park
follows in making cultural affiliation determinations also must be seen
by others to have been objective. For example, the Review Committee
believes that the park should engage a qualified independent contractor
to re-evaluate the information from the Chaco sites and offer specific
recommendation for cultural affiliation.
Review Committee member James Bradley did not participate in the
Review Committee's deliberations nor in the formulation of these
advisory findings and recommendations.
These advisory findings and recommendations do not necessarily
represent the views of the National Park Service or the Secretary of
the Interior. The National Park Service and the Secretary of the
Interior have not taken a position on these matters.

Dated: January 10, 2000.
Martin Sullivan,
Chair, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review
[FR Doc. 00-3053 Filed 2-9-00; 8:45 am]


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