Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Who Knew San Jose State Hired White Supremacists?

 2/15/22 Inside Higher Education:

A professor of physical anthropology is suing San José State University, saying she’s being retaliated against for her controversial stance on the repatriation of skeletal remains for reburial.

In two examples of alleged retaliation, Elizabeth Weiss says she was suddenly removed as curator of the university’s collection of remains, a role she’d held for 17 years, and locked out of the research facility itself.

The lawsuit accuses San José State of multiple violations of Weiss’s First Amendment rights....

Most of the bones in question were found in Alameda County, Calif., and range from 500 to 3,000 years old, Weiss said in an interview. They are in the process of being repatriated, but she would like access to them until they’re gone.

Weiss, who remains a faculty member, doesn’t know if she’ll ever again see the skeletal X-rays that are part of the university’s collection, either, even though she said these X-rays are not subject to federal or state laws governing repatriation.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say ‘lock me out,’ because they literally changed the locks on me,” Weiss said of San José State. “I have to rebuild my research career. And them locking me out of the collection, out of the curation facility, and not allowing me to see what other possibilities there are for me is really hindering my ability to start.”

Weiss also says that her dean and her department chair hosted a panel for deans and chairs during an online leadership conference last year called “What to Do When a Tenured Professor Is Branded a Racist.” Weiss, who watched the panel, says her supervisors used a pseudonym to discuss this theoretical racist professor, but as she’s the only tenured physical anthropologist in the department, they were clearly talking about her. She says her chair referred to her, indirectly, as a white supremacist and suggested she was professionally incompetent.

What is really interesting from a legal standpoint is a book she co-wrote in 2020:

Weiss’s 2020 book, Repatriation and Erasing the Past (University Press of Florida), was co-written with lawyer James Springer. It argues that returning bones to their ancestral burial grounds instead of keeping them to study now and in the future limits scientific advancement, and that the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and parallel state laws on repatriation undermine the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by favoring religion over science.

“I’m against reburying bones. I think they can tell us a lot about the past,” Weiss said of her views. “I think they can be used to train forensic anthropologists. I think that they are a key resource for young anthropologists, for archaeologists, forensic anthropologists, and I think that we still have a lot to learn from skeletal remains. I also think that a collection is not something that you study once and then it can be repatriated, because as you build knowledge on the collection, it helps you ask deeper questions as you learn more about the collection.”

Weiss also said that linking older bones to modern tribes for return is often imprecise, even with DNA analysis, as peoples have migrated over time and there are no tribe-specific genetic markers.

“I think that this kind of creates a false link that’s based mainly on geography, even though people have been moving around for millennia,” she said. “The other aspect is that I think that repatriation is a bigger part of an ideology that basically states that the story that you tell, or who recreates the past, is more important than the facts for recreating the past. My perspective is that the best, most accurate story doesn’t depend on who’s telling it. It depends on the quality of the research.”

Something that gets very little attention is that many Native American tribes insist that they rose from the Earth in their current locations.  I have seen these creation myths compared to Creation Science; religion, not science.  Some tribes are far removed from their positions in 1200.  From Richard White, "The Winning of the West: The Expansion of the Western Sioux in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries," The Journal of American HistoryVol. 65, No. 2 (Sep., 1978), pp. 319-343:

The neglect by historians of intertribal warfare and the reasons behind it has fundamentally distorted the historical position of the Plains Indians. As Ewers has noted, the heroic resistance approach to plains history reduces these tribes who did not offer organized armed resistance to the white American invaders, and who indeed often aided them against other tribes, to the position of either foolish dupes of the whites or of traitors to their race. Why tribes such as the Pawnee, Mandan, Hidatsa, Oto, Missouri, Crow, and Omaha never took up arms against white Americans has never been subject to much historical scrutiny. The failure of Indians to unite has been much easier to deplore than to examine.' The history of the northern and central American Great Plains in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is far more complicated than the tragic retreat of the Indians in the face of an inexorable white advance. From the perspective of most northern and central plains tribes the crucial invasion of the plains during this period was not necessarily that of the whites at all. These tribes had few illusions about American whites and the danger they presented, but the Sioux remained their most feared enemy....

Between approximately 1685 and 1876 the western Sioux conquered and controlled an area from the Minnesota River in Minnesota, west to the head of the Yellowstone, and south from the Yellowstone to the drainage of the upper Republican River. This advance westward took place in three identifiable stages: initially a movement during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries onto the prairies east of the Missouri, then a conquest of the middle Missouri River region during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, finally, a sweep west and south from the Missouri during the early and mid-nineteenth century. Each of these stages possessed its own impetus and rationale. Taken together they comprised a sustained movement by the Sioux that resulted in the dispossession or subjugation of numerous tribes and made the Sioux a major Indian power on the Great Plains during the nineteenth century.

While there is a case that a 300 year old skeleton is plausibly an ancestor or relative of the tribe in that area at Columbian contact, this is almost certainly incorrect for 3,000-year-old remains.


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