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Bringing ancestors home

Assemblyman James Ramos talks about his legislation to make sure that tribes have the legal authority to have their ancestors returned. Plus John Tahsuda joins us to talk about policy and the impact on Indian Country.
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The process of repatriation, moving ancestors from museums to burial grounds, has been painstakingly slow. Assemblyman James Ramos has said Indigenous people have had to jump through unnecessary hoops for a burial process that should not even be an issue. The Assemblyman, who is Serrano and Cahuilla, is the first California Indian to be elected to the California state legislature.

John Tahsuda III is a regular contributor to Indian Country Today. In 2002 he worked as the staff director for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He also is a former principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and served in that position from 2017 to 2020. Prior to that he worked with Navigators Global which is a company that provides political services to several industries including tribes.

 A slice of our Indigenous world

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  • Descendants of Standing Bear want Harvard University to return a tomahawk once owned by this Northern Ponca Leader.
  • A Phoenix family is growing a garden in their front yard and now they’re harvesting more than they can eat. Carina Dominguez has more.
  • Native Americans in Kansas are speaking out in support of the retirement of a controversial mascot.
  • And a mascot used by North Central High School in Spokane Washington is also being retired.
  • The title of the largest tribe in the United States can now be given to the Navajo Nation. 

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show

James Ramos:

"So the status now is that we continue to advocate for the repatriation of ancestors of California Indian people in the state of California. My bill AB 275, started to pave that way, working with the Native American heritage commission, which we chaired a long time since 2007 to 2018. I sat on that board as chairman of it. And we see many times that UC systems and museums would come forward with remains of ancestors of the people of the state of California, the first people and the tribe's elders and those museum directors disagreed on what should be repatriated back."

"And in some cases, some tribes want it all that was associated with it, which is right it's culture and the museum directors and UC disagreed. And when they disagreed, the UC and the museum directors left with the remains and the tribal elders had nothing. I immediately went to work upon being elected in the state legislature on AB 275, that then paved that way for that repatriation process to happen. And it gives greater way to the tribal elders in those discussions. So now the tribal elders will leave with those remains as this process moves forward."

"But also what has happened in the state of California, we're finding that through an audit that was done through the legislature joint audit with the UC system, we found over 500,000 Native American remains still in the archives of the UC system, many of those California Indian people and other Indian people from the United States. So identifying those areas and knowing that those were out there led us to move forward and advocate and get support of the state legislature on these issues."

John Tahsuda III:

"You're right in that, I don't know if I'd call it civil war, but sort of an inter family fight. And I think Ms. Cheney represents what looks to be a fairly small group within the Republican caucus who want to dwell on sort of the former president and his actions late before he left office. The January 6th events, et cetera. So I think that in some sense, I think the larger group would like to move on and her continuing to discuss those events is kind of keeping them from doing that."

"So they can move on to address the current Congress and the issues they want to pursue. So that's obviously one way to look at it. I think that it happens from time to time and the post that Ms. Cheney was in is supposed to be sort of a caucus voice and a unifying position amongst all of them. And are frankly not all that surprised that there was an effort to remove her and find somebody who would be more of a unifying voice across the whole caucus." 

"So I think that's largely what's going on. For Native folks particularly those tribes that have Republicans that are a part of the caucus there that represent them in their districts. I don't I don't think there's going to be, there's not a large change in policy or the direction that the house Republican leadership wants to go. So I think, again, this is really more of an internal sort of a family dispute about who could better unify the message that's coming out of the Republican caucus."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for Indian Country Today. Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7 Dominguez is based in Phoenix and New York.

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