This is from:
Following that is a paper on DNA evidence, which is NOT part of the news
article, and was sent in by an overseas supporter/researcher.
Navajos and Hopis at Odds Over Remains of
BY CHRISTOPHER SMITH
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Directed by a federal law that gives religion and
a federal panel meeting in Salt Lake City over the weekend struggled to
resolve a question that dates back a millennium.
Are Navajo Indians directly related to the Anasazi, the mysterious
people who lived in the Four Corners area from the time of Christ before
seemingly vanishing by 1300?
In the case of Chaco Canyon, the National Park Service believes the
answer is yes. Federal managers of the famed canyon in New Mexico --
which holds 13 major and thousands of smaller structures built by the
Anasazi civilization -- have determined that Navajos own a "cultural
affiliation" to human skeletal remains collected at Chaco Canyon
National Historic Park.
That decision comes under a federal law known as the Native
American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. NAGPRA requires
federal agencies and museums receiving federal funds to inventory their
collections of human bones and funeral artifacts, consult with Indian
about the items, determine which tribes have ancestral ties to the
then turn the remains over to affiliated tribes for reburial.
The Park Service's surprising inclusion of the Navajo people in
of tribes with ancestral ties to Anasazi remains at Chaco has inflamed
long-standing animosities the Hopi Indians, and some other "pueblo"
tribes of the Southwest, harbor toward Navajos. Besides complex land
and reservation boundary disputes, the fight stems from a feeling
nomadic Navajo tribe has ap-propriated indigenous Hopi and Puebloan
culture as its own, from weaving and pottery to social customs and views
of creation. Most experts believe Navajos migrated into the Four
Corners area after the Anasazi disappeared.
And now, Hopi tribal officials charge the Park Service has bowed to
political pressure and is allowing the Navajo to wrongly call dead
ancestors of the Hopi people their own.
"We were very surprised by the park's determination that a
non-puebloan tribe is culturally affiliated with Hopi puebloan ancestral
remains," Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office Director Leigh
Kuwanwisima told the NAGPRA Review Committee, the national board
formed to resolve disputes over native peoples' remains. "These were
clearly Hopi ancestral sites. When you begin to mix in political
you do not do justice to the law."
Chaco Culture Superintendent Butch Wilson said his staff spent nine
years consulting with all regional Indian tribes to determine which had
legitimate "cultural affiliation" to the remains in possession of the
Service. In determining cultural affiliation, the park considered not
geographical, biological, archaeological, linguistic and anthropological
evidence, but also folklore, kinship and oral traditions, such as
Hopi origin beliefs have been cited as justification for NAGPRA
on skeletal remains in an estimated 20 percent of the continental United
States. Colliding with those sacred beliefs is the Navajo tradition
"Great Gambler," who won all the Four Corners people as slaves in
Chaco Canyon until a Navajo hero beat the Gambler and freed the
people -- part of a Navajo doctrine holding that their people arrived in
Four Corners after "the holy ones" banished the Anasazi for being too
The difficult task of determining if such beliefs justify ancestral
connection to the Anasazi skeletons falls to the Park Service.
"In our best judgment, the preponderance of evidence justifies
cultural affiliation with Chaco Canyon under the provisions of
NAGPRA," said Wilson. "There are definite Navajo clans with
connections to Chaco sites."
NAGPRA Review Committee member Tessie Naranjo, a Santa Clara
tribal member from New Mexico, challenged whether there was true
empirical evidence to support the Navajo claim to Anasazi remains.
"It's important we remember that cultural borrowing is not cultural
affiliation," she said.
By the close of the committee's meeting Saturday, the body had
formulated a recommendation that the Park Service revisit its
Navajo cultural affiliation by determining on a site-by-site basis --
than from a canyonwide perspective -- the cultural affiliation of
or funerary object.
"We'd like to see the Park Service do some more weighting of
evidence on a site-by-site basis instead of looking at everything in a
region together," said board member John O'Shea, director of the
University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. "What the Hopi are
saying is, 'We're not all the same.' We've seen a lot of cases where the
Park Service has tried to finesse this issue and not address precise
The often complex determination of cultural affiliation, as required
under the landmark law President Bush signed nine years ago this month,
has some scientists calling for NAGPRA's repeal. The law, which has
radically changed the field of archaeological inquiry, has an inherent
tension: The long-denied need to return control of native peoples'
remains and grave objects to lineal and cultural descendants for
and the legitimate public interest in the educational, historical and
information conveyed by the remains and burial objects.
NAGPRA also relies on a shaky assumption that experts can
positively identify ancestral traits from civilizations that
ago and trace them in a continuous line to a modern ethnic group, in
of centuries of intermarriage, relocation and evolution. And many
believe NAGPRA tries to marry two irreconcilables -- science and
"Laws like NAGPRA strike at the heart of a scientific archaeology
because they elevate Indian cultural traditions and religious beliefs
level of science as a paradigm for describing or explaining reality,"
paleoanthropologist Geoffrey Clark last spring in The Skeptical
a magazine dedicated to scientific analysis of the paranormal.
considerations thus take precedence over disinterested evaluation of
knowledge claims, with tragic and irreversible results."
But there are few disinterested parties when it comes to determining
whose bones belong to whom.
"We have an ancient way of life that is being pitted against
said NAGPRA Review Committee member Armand Minthorn of the
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon,
embroiled in its own court fight over reburying Kennewick Man, a
9,300-year-old skeleton that may shed new light on human colonization.
"That is not right. The law says you must hold scientific fact in equal
weight with what the tribes present."
Many tribes feel at a financial and legal disadvantage when federal
agencies rely mainly on scientific evidence to determine cultural
of skeletal human remains.
Alvin Moyle is a member of the Paiute Shoshone Tribe of the Fallon
Reservation in northern Nevada, which is trying to convince the Bureau
of Land Management that the so-called "Spirit Cave remains" are the
tribe's ancestors. He complained to the board that the BLM refuses to
recognize tribal spiritual leaders, medicine men or traditional
professional consultants in NAGPRA consultations.
"We are having to prove we are who we are," Moyle said. "We do not
have a 'pre-history,' only a history. There is a lack of respect. We
responsibility to these people who came before us, because they cannot
be here to talk."
Adding to the confusion is the tendency of all cultures to
pre-existing structures or land forms as part of their own heritage.
Service experts said all tribes in the region of Chaco Canyon associate
the Anasazi dwellings as part of their own heritage, regardless of
they can prove direct ancestral ties to the original inhabitants.
Under the new recom- mendation of the review committee in the
Chaco Canyon case, the Park Service is now confronted with conducting
a cultural-affiliation test on sites ranging from massive adobe cliff
dwellings to the location of a single human molar.
"They need to conduct a weighting of all evidence for each site, and
obviously, in the case of a site that consists of a single human
will likely have to determine that site is culturally
But already, battle lines are being drawn over such "culturally
unidentifiable" determinations, where even the term itself offends many
indigenous people. While all the issues revolve around a simple question
-- Who was here first? -- the complicated answers may be lost in time.
"Everyone agrees we want to see reburial of these remains," said
Martin Sullivan, chairman of the review board and representative of the
American Association of Museums. "But right now, we're at a standoff."
SCIENCE PROVIDES NEW EVIDENCE IN AN OLD LAND DISPUTE
Recent scientific discoveries have provided fresh information
the largest land dispute in the US. In the Black Mesa region of
Northeastern Arizona, over 12,000 Navajo have been forcibly relocated as a
result of US legislation that ended their right to remain on land within a
reservation created in 1882. The relocation has cost US taxpayers over $400
million and has had a devastating impact on the Navajo. A former director
of the relocation program resigned, saying that the program was "a tragedy
of genocide and injustice that will be a blot on the conscience of this
country for many generations". Archaeologists using the latest technology
for studying human DNA have unearthed evidence that calls into question the
historical assumptions on which the US policy was based.
The events in question began a thousand years ago when the
Hopi, a pueblo
tribe, took up residence upon the buttes which they have continued to
occupy until the present time, making their villages the oldest
continuously inhabited settlements in the United States. Archaeologists
have long been aware of other pueblo tribes, collectively called the
Anasazi, whose occupancy in the region preceded the Hopi. Thousands of
Anasazi sites have been identified on Black Mesa. Also at the same time, a
migration of Athabascan people from Canada was in progress that would
ultimately reach the region. When the Europeans arrived five hundred years
later, the Hopi remained in their villages on the buttes, but the Anasazi
had disappeared and the surrounding region was occupied by the Navajo,
whose language was clearly derived from the Athabascan migrants.
In 1882, the US created a large reservation that was centered
Hopi villages, but also included surrounding land occupied by the Navajo.
When the US later transferred much of the control of the reservations to
tribal governments, the control of this reservation was given to a
government consisting exclusively of the Hopi, which left the status of the
Navajo upon the rest of the reservation in bureaucratic limbo. In 1941, the
US Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed making a region adjacent to the Hopi
villages called District 6 into an exclusively Hopi reservation and
transferring jurisdiction over the surrounding areas to the neighboring
Navajo tribal government, but this solution was never implemented.
The discovery of mineral wealth on Black Mesa increased the
stakes in the
situation. The Navajo-occupied areas of the 1882 Reservation contained
deposits of low-sulfur coal with a value estimated in the billions of
dollars. High profile attorneys entered the situation to fight for control
of this wealth, and in 1956, the courts were asked to resolve the land
title in a lawsuit known as Healing v. Jones.
In the trial, the attorneys for the Hopi convinced the court
Navajo were recent emigrants into the area as shown in the court's decision:
"No Indians in this country have a longer authenticated history than the
"From all historic evidence, it appears that the Navajos entered what is
now Arizona in the last half of the eighteenth century" [from Healing v
Jones, US District Court Arizona, Sept 28, 1962]
The court accepted the premise that the Navajo were encroachers upon
traditional Hopi territory, and this played a significant role in its
decision to award the Hopi government 100% control of District 6 and a 50%
interest in the rest of the 1882 reservation. In 1974, Congress would
accept the same arguments in passing legislation partitioning the area
outside District 6 into separate Hopi and Navajo territories, and requiring
the relocation of all Navajo living in the Hopi Partitioned Lands. The
relocation tragedy is ongoing, as many families have resisted relocation
efforts for 25 years and are still fighting to remain on their land.
Most archaeologists would strongly dispute the court's assertion
historic evidence" pointed to an 18th century arrival for the Navajo.
Archaeological studies have demonstrated an Athabascan presence in the
region as early as 1500, and many suspect that future discoveries may push
back this date several centuries earlier. But some archaeologists have a
different interpretation of the ancient history of the region: they
question whether it is accurate to describe the Navajo as a purely
While no one disputes the Athabascan-roots of the Navajo language,
long been recognized that Navajo religion and culture contain a pueblo
influence that was much too deep to be explained by casual contact with
neighboring tribes. Archaeologist David Brugge suggested that these
cultural infusions might have resulted from a different cause: that the
current Navajo tribe formed as a synthesis of Anasazi and Athabascan
ancestors. In a 1998 paper "Navajo Religion and the Anasazi Connection", he
outlined how the Athabascan emigrants may have absorbed the Anasazi into
This theory has received support from recent studies of DNA.
Later in 1998,
Francine Romero published a paper "A Population Genetic Study of
Athabascan-speaking Populations in the American Southwest", which studied
founding lineages or haplogroups in mitochondrial DNA samples. The Navajo
were found to have a genetic make-up that was a mixture of Athabascan and
pueblo haplogroups. In April of 1999, a more startling discovery was
announced in the release of a paper "Biological Evidence Pertaining to the
Navajo Claim of Affiliation with the Anasazi" by archaeologist David Smith
of the University of California at Davis.
Recent advances in technology have allowed the extraction of
DNA from prehistoric skeletal material. Dr. Smith was able to examine the
haplogroups of ancient Anasazi skeletons and to compare these to samples
from current populations. The study showed a makeup that was consistent
with previous studies showing the Anasazi to be part of the pueblo family
that includes the Hopi and other tribes in the Southwest. But the study
also revealed the presence of another haplogroup which appears similar to
an "X" haplogroup found in the Navajo but which has not been found in the
Hopi. He states that if the Anasazi samples are found to match the "X"
haplogroup, "the Navajo- and Tanoan- speaking pueblo groups are likely to
include the most genetically defensible candidates for descendants of
Anasazi culture in the Southwest".
As Dr. Smith points out, the ethnic characterization of populations
as admixtures of multiple lineages is not an issue that can be handled just
by genetic studies. But the DNA evidence supports evidence from oral
histories as well as from religious and cultural studies that suggests a
strong connection between the Anasazi and the modern day Navajo. This has
always been the understanding of the Navajo - Anasazi is just the Navajo
word meaning "the ancient ones". To the extent that the Navajo are at least
in part descendants of the Anasazi, their presence in the region may
predate that of the Hopi, and in any event they have been joint tenants of
the region for over a thousand years.
This evidence calls into question the handling of the situation
United States government, which based its tragic policies in the region
upon a false understanding of history. The 18th century date used in
Healing v Jones for the Navajo arrival into the region has long been
contradicted by archaeological evidence pushing the date back into the
1500's, and the link to the Anasazi validates a claim to residency that
goes back a thousand years. The United States has always justified its
extreme and devastating policy of relocation as being necessary to correct
a trespass upon Hopi territory by the Navajo. The latest advances in
science are adding further proof that the Navajo are residing upon land
that their ancestors have occupied since ancient time.