The repatriation claim for remains I have been working on is finally in the mail. We have two claims out now for remains, and the 90 day clock is ticking. If a museum is making a good effort to work with us and they are swamped, we are not strict on the 90 days. But if a museum is not so easy to work with, or they go way over the 90 day period, then we have to remind the museum they are out of compliance and that is not a good thing. It’s completely unacceptable to have to wait 4-6 months for an answer on a claim. And that’s just the answer, that’s not including the federal register process, which is included in the 90 days if a museum does honor a claim. Every claim we send out we feel 100% behind it. If a museum denies us, we would have no problem preparing a dispute. We have yet to do one(which is a good thing) but if the occasion presented itself, we would go ahead with it.
A huge problem we face and other tribes I have spoken with as well, is that many museums follow their own NAGPRA guidelines more closely then they do the Federal Law. It’s so difficult when we encounter this problem, when a museum says “under our guidelines, etc. etc.” The museum guidelines are not the law, the federal law is. I just got off the phone with another tribe with whom I will be interviewing for our repatriation manual and this dilemma came up in our conversation. It makes things really hard to deal with when a museum is not held accountable for being out of compliance.