The Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) Government Affairs Program, managed by lawyer and WAC4 attendee Donald Craib, publishes a detailed monthly update on matters of relevance to archaeologists and heritage professionals that are being considered by the U.S. government in Washington D.C.. The URL is Recent editions of the update include the following items which should be of interest to WAC members, especially in the lead-up to WAC-5 in Washington D.C.. Note that the original text is copyright. It is only paraphrased here to draw the attention of readers to the issues in question. Readers are referred to the SAA website for details.

ARPA Decision

In December 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that there is no violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) if someone takes archaeological artefacts from Federal land unless it can be shown beyond reasonable doubt that the person knew that the objects are more than 100 years old. The case arose after a man pleaded guilty under ARPA of removing a Native American skull from a cave in National Forest in Alaska. The Appeal Court judgement led then-SAA president Keith Kintigh to write to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the Solicitor General to appeal the ruling and if necessary, petition the United States Supreme Court.

Kintigh noted that the SAA “strongly supports effective use of ARPA to protect heritage resources from the devastating and irreparable effects of looting and vandalism”. He argued that the ruling alters ARPA by misreading the criminal intent element of the law, meaning that ARPA convictions will be more difficult to achieve. He stated that this “will leave heritage resources dangerously vulnerable to damage and destruction as they were before the enactment of ARPA in 1979”.

Kennewick Man

In September 2000, Secretary of Interior Babbitt decided that the remains of Kennewick Man are Native American as defined by NAGPRA and culturally affiliated with five claimant tribes. The SAA wrote to Babbitt to support his determination that the remains are Native American, but questioning his position on cultural affiliation. A copy of SAA’s position paper can be found on SAA’s web page.

Smithsonian sale of antiquities

On behalf of all of the major national professional organizations representing archaeology in the United States –the Society for American Archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association – the-then SAA President wrote to the Smithsonian Institution (a partner in WAC-5) regarding advertizing the sale of antiquities. Using very direct language, Kintigh stated that the Smithsonian has “important responsibilities to help preserve and protect the world’s irreplaceable cultural heritage” and that its “complicity in the sale of antiquities runs directly contrary to those goals”.

Smithsonian Centre for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE) axed

The SCMRE will be closed at the end of this year and its research program terminated. Founded in 1963, the centre is a world leader in preserving cultural heritage by conducting archaeological materials research and conservation studies and by training hundreds of researchers from the U.S. and over 40 countries in conservation, preservation, and materials research. Current SAA president Bob Kelly wrote to the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents asking them to reconsider the SCMRE’s future on the grounds that The SCMRE is an essential part of the Smithsonian’s research mandate.