LETTER - Longest Walk needs your support

To the editor:

For those of you who have been sympathetically following the repatriation protest at UC Berkeley, I'd like to urge you to support the Longest Walk (www.longestwalk.org), which is described in the following introductory passage from the organization's Web site:

"On Feb. 11th, Longest Walk participants will embark on a five month journey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. arriving on July 11th. The Longest Walk south route is being led by AIM co-founder Dennis J. Banks. It is an extraordinary grassroots effort on a national level to bring attention to the environmental disharmony of Mother Earth, sacred site issues, and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the original longest walk. Click the image to expand the map.

"The journey will take fortitude, determination, courage, and much help from supporters along the way. Given the people involved and the significance of the issues, I'm sure the march will succeed. For complete details, please see the Web site."

The Longest Walk embraces many issues far beyond the sudden and secretive elimination of UC Berkeley's Hearst Museum NAGPRA unit, but organizers sympathize with our protest against turning complete control of the remains over 12,000 Native ancestors to radically anti-repatriation scientists like osteologist Tim White.

Tim White claims "he and his colleagues in such fields as medicine, physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, forensics and archaeology rely heavily on the use of skeletal remains."

He states further "no students in these fields could be properly trained without direct access to relevant physical scientific evidence."

How many ancestors must you have to study? It seems to us that you have amassed more human remains than you will ever need to train your up-and-coming scientists. How useful can human remains be, if you identify them as culturally unidentifiable? The ancestors have been dug up and exposed, stopping the journey to the other side; Native Americans have the right to be buried. This is a human rights issue! Their journey has been disturbed. It is time for them to come home, and return to Mother Earth.

Even if Mr. White thinks human remains are so scientifically important, why he is so covetous of Native American remains. Wouldn't it be fairer to share the burden? Shouldn't he use his same arguments to request governmental permission to dig up the graves of Caucasians, say at Forest Lawn or even Arlington? President Kennedy is buried at Arlington; he was a brilliant man and surely his remains would yield interesting "scientific" results. Should we desecrate his grave in the name of Mr. White's precious "science?" Most people would be rightfully shocked. Why are they so complacent about Native American human remains?

I urge you again to support the Longest Walk.

Corbin Collins

Berkeley, Calif.

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