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Sunday, 16 September 2007

Piece of Willamette Meteorite to be Auctioned

Piece of Willamette Meteorite to be Auctioned

Paul bristolia at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 16 08:57:05 EDT 2007

Garrison asked:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/native-american-tribe-alarmed-by-auction-of-a-meteorite-fragment/?hp

“Is there any known evidence that Willamette was known
by/important to Native Americans in the area pre-removal?
Or was this a "hey, this'd bring tourist dollars, let's try
and get it" situation?”

Back in 2000, the Willamette Meteorite was the center of a
significant lawsuit in terms of how the Native American Graves
Repatriation Act of 1990 would be interpreted. Being associated
with archaeologists as an archaeological geologist at that time, I
heard all sorts of commentary about it during various informal
discussions, which I overheard at meetings and work, between the
archaeologists and anthropologist, with whom I worked.

According to my imperfect recollections of these discussions, the
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde provided, as documented in
their Native American Graves Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) lawsuit, a
well-documented oral history and some written historic records,
which demonstrated that prior to 1855 that the Clackamas Indians,
now part of the modern-day Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde,
definitely regarded the Willamette Meteorite as being quite sacred
and used it regularly as a focus of religious rites. They were forced
to abandoned the ownership of the land, on which it was located and
the meteorite along with the land as a resulted of being forcibly
relocated to new reservations in 1855. Given that it weights 15
tons, it was impossible for them to bring it with them. After that,
their beliefs regarding this meteorite were ignored and dismissed as
“nonsense” from "superstitious Indians” since they had no legal
claim to it and lacked any political power. Later, in order to force
them and many other Indian groups to “assimilate” into American
culture, their legal standing as a recognized tribes were terminated in
1954. It was only in 1983, that the Confederated Tribes of the Grand
Ronde were again legally recognized as even being Native Americans.
Thus, for 29 years, they lacked any sort of legal standing to either
complain about or pursue any claim against anyone in any fashion
and were preoccupied with cultural survival.

It was only with the passage of NAGPRA, which includes sacred
objects and sites in addition to graves, that they had any legal
basis to assert any legal claim or control over the Willamette
Meteorite. After 1990, it took several years of constitutional
challenges and writing of enacting regulations and procedures
before, they and other Native American groups were allowed to
file lawsuits under NAGPRA. Thus, it not until 1999 that they
finally filed a lawsuit under NAGPRA. Unfortunately, the
documentation for all of their claims still lies largely buried
in the legal filings, which were made for their NAGPRA suit.

Some information can be found in:

I. “Meteorite Custody Case” by Diedtra Henderson, Archaeology
Magazine, February 2000, at:

http://www.archaeology.org/online/news/meteorite.html

II. “Meteorite Case Update” by Diedtra Henderson,
Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2000, at:

http://www.archaeology.org/0005/newsbriefs/meteorite.html

and III. Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 26, 2000 - Issue no. 4, at

http://www.turtletrack.org/Issues00/Co02262000/CO_02262000_Meteorite.htm

My guess would be that the consensus of the archaeologists and
anthropologists, whom I knew, would be that the feelings of a typical
member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde towards
auctioning off this piece of the Willamette Meteorite would be
equivalent what a Roman Catholic would feel if someone had
obtained possession of a large piece of artwork from the Sistine
Chapel and was auctioning it off at either Southby's or Christie's.

An interesting web page is “Willamette Meteorite 2000” at:

http://www.usgennet.org/alhnorus/ahorclak/MeteorHome.html

Some orther article lengthy articles about the Tribes of the Grand
Ronde and the Willamette Meteorite are:

Indian Group Blasts Meteorite Sale, Washington Post, by Larry
McShane, New York Times, September 14, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091400412.html

American Indians protest auction of meteorite part Newsday, NY,
http://www.newsday.com/news/local/newyork/ny-nyrockvr5373494sep14,0,5129294.story

Yours,

Paul

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