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New internet site addresses sacred site destruction

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ISLAND PARK, Idaho -- Native Earthworks Preservation, an organization
devoted to stopping the destruction and desecration of American Indian
sacred sites and burial mounds, has launched a new Web site:
www.nepsite.org.

NEP was founded in 2003 by John Koda Miller, John Red Hawk Wills and Linda
Benfield.

Miller, the group's spokesman, travels throughout the United States to
speak about the importance of preserving Native burial mounds. "Amazingly,"
Miller said in a recent interview, "many people think burial mounds are
protected, and that most are on public lands like National Park Service
land. But many are on private property, and every year, more and more are
endangered by development.

"NEP members are the voice of the ancestors. It is time that people take on
this growing problem of neglect, abuse and disgrace that has happened to
our sacred sites," said Miller.

Imagine driving to a cemetery where a family member is buried and finding
that it is now sitting under a condo development. This would not happen
today, because cemeteries are protected and many are maintained with local
tax dollars. Not so with land where our nation's first people were laid to
rest. And it isn't just burial sites. Medicine wheels, vision sites and
other sacred areas are relentlessly slated for development, and artifacts
are found and sold -- not returned to tribes.

Some states require archaeological review of large-scale developments and
public works projects to see if construction would harm archaeological
treasures. Some state laws require that the nearest tribe be notified if
burial mounds and artifacts are discovered. Tribes can repatriate the
remains, roads can be rerouted or developers can set the sacred space
aside.

Miller said national legislation is needed to protect all burial sites on
private land, and to require that sonar be used to search for artifacts and
bones at large development sites. He named the legislation the John Wills
Act after NEP cofounder Red Hawk Wills, who fought for sacred site
protection in Ohio.

The act would require:

* That before any major construction, sonar be used to ensure that there is
not a burial ground or bodies beneath the ground.

* Once bodies are found, the site must follow the guidelines of the Native
American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

* Any tribe within the location of the site must be notified.

* States with no tribal governments must contact the Congress of American
Indians.

* Every off-reservation find must be noted, counted and marked by American
Indians before excavation.

* Any Native sites with more than three bodies must be labeled a tribal
burial ground.

A petition asking Congress to pass the John Wills Act can be accessed at
the NEP site. So far, it has more than 600 signatures.

Also on the site are a link to sign up for NEP's newsletter, a history of
the Mound Builders, Native news, links to members of the Congressional
Native America Caucus and links to NEP chapters.

NAGPRA, a federal law passed in 1990, provides a process for museums and
federal agencies to return Native cultural items -- human remains, funerary
objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony -- to lineal
descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian
organizations. It does not extend to private land.

Miller said NEP is looking for archaeologists and historians to join
nonprofessional NEP members to fight sacred site destruction, help raise
awareness of the John WIlls Act and provide NEP's Web site with historical
information about sacred sites.