How Did I Miss That? NAGPRA Applied to Skeletal Remains in Idaho

iStock An ocelot rests on a tree.

Discovery Channel’s half-truths are as bad as Trump’s in DC

Sho-Ban News reported that Elmore County, Idaho Sheriff Mike Hollinshead has turned over the skeletal remains of two individuals to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), claiming they were not evidence of homicide.

My cousin Ray Sixkiller reminded me that the sheriff could only have meant recent homicide.

The skeletal remains were found in a badger hole near Mountain Home, Idaho, on land managed by the BLM. Asked to make a determination about homicide, the sheriff engaged the anthropology department at Boise State University.

Trying for certainty, two different labs were engaged to opine on the age of the skeletal remains. The opinions of a private lab in Miami, Florida and another at the University of Arizona got results ranging from 1436 to 1632.

​“Almost 200 years,” Cousin Ray snarked. “Gives a whole new meaning to close enough for government work.”

One of the persons was said to be 20 years old; the other between 10 and 15. These were best estimates, because the tests were inconclusive on that point. The tests also claimed to be inconclusive on whether the deceased were Native Americans. It was certain that corn was a significant part of their diet.

The BLM appears to be holding with the Native American theory, because they have begun the NAGPRA process out of the BLM office in Boise. Tribes likely to receive NAGPRA notices are the Nez Perce, the Shoshone-Paiute, and the Shoshone-Bannocks of the Ft. Hall Reservation who publish the Sho-Ban News.

With his tongue in both cheeks, Cousin Ray wondered who else should be notified of remains of folks who ate a lot of corn about 400 years ago in Idaho?

“The Asatru Folk Assembly, of course, and Vladimir Putin.”

Vladimir Putin? I was puzzled.

“If these folks weren’t Natives, they had to be colonists. Who colonized the Pacific Northwest? The Russians! Isn’t President Trump already talking about giving Alaska back to the Russians? This is their chance to stake a claim in Idaho!”

While I agree that Mr. Trump is amenable to whatever Mr. Putin wants, I think Sarah Palin would object to being part of Russia even if she can see it from her house.

In other Alaska news, the Associated Press reported that Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna, Alaska, has walked on. His family issued the following statement:

Stubbs lived for 20 years and 3 months. He was a trooper until the very last day of his life; meowing at us throughout the day to pet him or to come sit on the bed with him and let him snuggle and purr for hours in our lap. Thank you, Stubbs, for coming into our lives for the past 31 months; you are a remarkable cat and we will dearly miss you. We loved the time we were allowed to spend with you.

Talkeetna, pop. 900, elected the yellow cat on write-in ballots in 1998, and the town has gotten along without a two-legged major since then.

Cousin Ray was speculating that Stubbs was elected in the first place because of name confusion with the late Clifford Stubbs, who created a legendary BBQ sauce in Lubbock, Texas and later conquered Austin with it. At least I think that’s what Cousin Ray would have said had his mouth not been full.

At the southern end of the lower 48, one of many problems with President Trump’s wall between the U.S. and Mexico is the Fifth Amendment, which requires compensation to owners of property taken for a public purpose. So far, Congress has not appropriated a dime to acquire land for the wall.

Rather than appeal to Mexico for a down payment, the Trump administration is planning to start the wall on land the federal government already owns in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge is habitat for 400 species of birds and 450 species of plants. As my pal Bill Oliver wrote in song, “There’s not a lot of ocelot along the Rio Grande.” To the extent Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) has not gone the way of Jaguarundi (Herpailurus jaguarondi)—reduced to a rumor by habitat loss—the Santa Ana Refuge is one of the last places these cats can hide.

The Texas Observer reported that the plan is three miles of 18-foot wall though the Santa Ana, building a road south of the wall and clearing land on either side. A 2016 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that more than 100 species would be rendered homeless that are listed as endangered, threatened, or are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act, a law to which the Trump Administration is hostile.

Trump is also hostile to science that predicts the wall will be endangered from increases in flooding on the Rio Grande caused by that climate change myth started in China.

Proving Texas state government just as crazy as the federal government, KXAN reported that the Department of Public Safety Inspector General’s Office released a report on a February road rage incident in which Texas Ranger Michael Smith—who was driving an unmarked vehicle in civilian clothes—drew a pistol on David Vancuran, who had “flipped him off.”

I was wondering why it took five months to figure out that responding to a finger with a pistol was “poor judgment.”

Cousin Ray speculated that the IG was trying to decide whether to punish Smith for drawing his weapon or praise him for not shooting anybody.

The Washington Post reported that the Discovery Channel just can’t anticipate the mood of the TV audience. Discovery has been doing its best to outdo April 21, 1986, when Geraldo Rivera planned to get revenge on ABC for firing him in a fight over whether he could do a broadcast on an alleged affair between JFK and Marilyn Monroe.

After much hype, and toward the end of a two-hour syndicated special, Rivera broke into a vault apparently owned by Al Capone. Rivera had an IRS agent there to collect Capone’s back taxes if the vault contained money and a medical examiner to take custody of any human remains.

Turns out, he should have hired a cleaning service, because there was a lot of dirt in there. Cousin Ray pointed out that there was going to be dirt there or on ABC, but in the live special at least the dirt wasn’t spread on two dead people.

Continuing in the tradition of Capone’s vault, Discovery Channel barkers told the rubes in 2014 they would see a man eaten by an anaconda and then regurgitated. It didn’t happen.

My wise guy cousin wanted to know which didn’t happen, the eating or the regurgitation? Neither one.

Last week, the same barkers told the same rubes that Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps was going to race a great white shark. Discovery spent most of the program gathering data on shark speed. When it came time to get in the water, Phelps raced a computer-generated great white in the 100 meters.

The human champion clocked 38.1 seconds. The CGI shark made the distance in 36.1 seconds. Cousin Ray urged me to back off making fun of the Discovery Channel.

“That was only the teaser,” he claimed. “They intend to do the real deal on the Food Channel.”

A federal district court has finally closed out the litigation against Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky, known in this column as The Clerk Who Won’t Work. After Davis lost her claim that a county official may ignore orders of the U.S. Supreme Court that do not suit her, the ACLU of Kentucky posted a copy of the final order on their website.

The taxpayers of Kentucky will pay $2,808.08 in costs and $222,695 in attorneys’ fees for not folding the idiotic case when Davis was sued in her official capacity. Davis claimed God told her she will have an unpleasant afterlife if she issues marriage licenses to same sex couples. God used to say the same about interracial couples, but He changed His mind. Kentucky taxpayers might be forgiven if they ask whether God intends to pick up the tab.

President Trump’s ignorance of government has stalled his domestic agenda, but foreign policy is worse than stalled. Trump has gotten in arguments with our closest and oldest friends, including Mexico, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Sweden, and the U.K.

So far, he hasn’t gotten crosswise with Japan, but that may be Japanese reluctance to confront oafish behavior. In his recent New York Times interview, Trump mentioned the G-20 dinner where he had his unscheduled tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin. He told the Times he had been seated next to the Japanese First Lady, Akie Abe.

Trump allowed, “she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.” Her lack of English left him sitting in silence for an hour and 45 minutes, he claimed. This week, boingboing reported that Ms. Abe speaks English very well and posted a video of a speech she made to the Ford Foundation—in better English than Trump uses—to prove it.

Cousin Ray didn’t doubt she left Trump to eat in silence, “not because she doesn’t understand English, but probably because she does.”

Trump has shaken the foundations of NATO by casting doubt on mutual defense when the only time mutual defense has ever been invoked, the U.S. benefitted.

He has drawn us close to a human rights rogue’s gallery: The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Russia.

This week, Trump preached to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “Hezbollah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region.” Trump was apparently unaware that Hezbollah is part of the coalition government Hariri represents.

Other parts of the U.S. government are in perpetual cleanup mode. The Cherokee Phoenix reported on a Cherokee citizen, Airman First Class Mason Turman, who participated in one of the public relations attempts to mend European fences when U.S. troops filled the place of honor leading off the Bastille Day parade down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées 100 years after 14,000 soldiers from the American Expeditionary Force showed up for WWI in partial payback for the French aid that won the American Revolution.

Indian nations sent 20 percent of their adult male population. Most were volunteers but some Indians who were not U.S. citizens were conscripted. Carlisle Indian Industrial School contributed 90 percent of their male students. The Onondaga and Oneida Nations declared war on Germany. One percent of American troops were KIA, compared to five percent of American Indian troops. Indians served in every major battle of WWI.

Indian service in WWI helped pass the Indian Citizenship Act. Citizenship was supposed to confer the right to vote, but Indians in many states were subjected to the same voter suppression rules as in North Carolina then, when the Dixiecrat establishment kept Indians from voting because most North Carolina Indians were Cherokee and most Cherokees were Republicans.

In our time, the same state is run by Republicans and they are trying to suppress students and minority voting generally because they think young people and minorities vote Democratic. Since 1968, the Voting Rights Act provides a way to fight back. It will take a while because the SCOTUS struck down the preclearance requirement for voting laws, but people will eventually get to vote and they’ll be pissed off at the people who tried to stop them.

Cousin Ray summed it up: “What goes around, comes around.”

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