Cronkite Newsduring Finnish President Sauli Niinistö’s visit to the White House, follows years of cooperation between the tribes and the National Museum of Finland to identify the objects and link them to specific tribes. They include more than 600 items of ancestral remains and objects taken from an area that is now part of Mesa Verde National Park. They include the remains of 20 individuals, as well as 28 funerary objects, or items buried with the individuals. Tribal leaders welcomed the return of these items, but lamented that much work remains to be done to recover items from other countries.
NAGPRA has a grant program to help tribes with the costs of repatriating stolen items, and a seven-member commission oversees the law’s implementation, and settles disputes between individuals and/or tribes over items. The STOP Act was first introduced in 2017 by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, and passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee before failing to get a vote on the Senate floor. Heinrich reintroduced the bill this July and it was sent to the Indian Affairs Committee, where it is currently waiting for a hearing. The House version was referred to the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources committees. It had a hearing Sept. 19 before the Indigenous Peoples of the United States subcommittee of Natural Resources, but no action since, and is still awaiting a hearing in the other two committees. Nuvangyaoma thanked the government and the tribes who worked for Wednesday’s agreement with the Finns. But he said it’s past time to act, and he called on the public to help tribes like his bring their ancestors home. “If you can be of some help in helping us come up with some of these individuals, to help us spread the message that, again, these are living, breathing people out there and they need to come home,” he said. – Cronkite News reporter Frankie McLister contributed to this report from Phoenix. For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.
White House Press ConferenceThe following remarks were made by Robert “Bob” Frank Pence, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, during a press conference at the White House with President Donald Trump of the United States and President Niinistö of the Republic of Finland on October 2, 2019:
When I arrived in Helsinki about a year and a half ago, there were stack of papers on the desk, one of a couple of which concerned indigenous peoples from the southwestern United States — Arizona, Colorado — including probably most predominantly, but generically I will refer to them as Hopi Indians. They were one of the group. In 1895, a lot of their remains had been excavated and removed along with about 500 artifacts to Finland. And there they’ve remained despite a lot of activity to get them back. And I’ll just jump to the end and say: Through the good offices of our State Department, but in particular, President Niinistö and his entire team, we’ve secured a mutual agreement whereby all of those remains, including a number of petrified bodies, will be going back to be put back where they were buried. So it’s special to us, and I think it’s probably special to indigenous peoples everywhere around the globe that we’re all concerned about paying appropriate respect to those who have departed before us. So, thank you. Thank you both of the Presidents for supporting this.
This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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