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Berkeley Talks transcript: Linda Rugg on Native American repatriation at UC Berkeley

portrait of Linda Rugg smiling
Linda Rugg is the associate vice chancellor for research and a professor of Scandinavian Studies at UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo)

Listen to Berkeley Talks episode #118: “Linda Rugg on Native American repatriation at UC Berkeley.”

Susan Hoffman: Welcome, everyone. Welcome OLLI members, campus colleagues and community members. Today’s topic is based on “UC Berkeley’s Native American repatriation and renaming and un-naming efforts.” It is a part of OLLI’s speaker series called America’s Unfinished Work. The leading thinkers from campus engaged in the examination and eradication of systemic racism to create a more human just and equal society.

Today’s speaker is associate vice chancellor for research, Linda Haverty Rugg. We have known her well at UC Berkeley’s OLLI, where she has been the professor of Swedish literature in the Scandinavian department, bringing courses to OLLI on all sorts of related topics, literature and film, the eco-cultural criticism of the Nordic lands and many other relevant pieces.

Her present research engages with the work of two Swedish brothers, who arrived in the Delaware River Valley in 1712. The particular focus of this encounter is with the Native Americans and the natural environment of North America. So right now, I’d like also to mention that Professor Linda Rugg was also a Distinguished Teaching Award Winner with OLLI at Berkeley, given her relationship with us. So now, we will have a presentation by professor Rugg, Associate Vice Chancellor Rugg for the next 45, 50 minutes. Hopefully, we’ll have a few minutes at the end for questions, which we will ask you to put into the chat room. So with no further ado, Linda Rugg.

Linda Haverty Rugg: Thank you, Susan. I was asked to speak today, as you may have guessed, because I’m a long-term instructor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and also because I now occupy a position in the administration, where I’m part of an effort to change a long pattern of delay and obstruction on the part of the university, and frustration and hurt and righteous anger on the part of Native Americans regarding repatriation.

Linda Haverty Rugg: I began this work in 2018. And when I started my present position, I had never heard of NAGPRA, which is an acronym that I will explain shortly. And I was not aware of the experience of Native Americans, particularly Native Californians, with our university. I’ve now had the chance to meet with Native people at conferences and in meetings, both in their ancestral lands and on campus and virtually, and I have felt their anger and their sorrow at the treatment they and their ancestors have received. And I want to say that I’m deeply sorry for what we have done as individuals and as a community to cause this injury.

I had a chance to scan the attendance sheet for this event before speaking today. And I realized that there are a lot of people sitting in the audience who know more than me, more than I do about NAGPRA, about California history about Native American history, and certainly about Native American life. And so I want to stress that I’m not speaking today out of a position of great knowledge and great authority. But I’m going to offer my perspective on the work of repatriation and the acts of naming and un-naming and tell you what we’ve been trying to do to restore justice. But speaking out of my own position also means bringing something in my background into this mix. And so I want to share with you an image, it’s actually a story that has played out in my mind as I’ve been working on repatriation in the university.

I am in the Scandinavian department, my first foreign language that I learned was German. And this is a story that I often think about. It’s a powerful image for me of what it’s like to approach the university as a native person, and how the university holds its power. It’s a story called Vor dem Gesetz/Before the Law, and it was written by Franz Kafka in 1915. It begins, “Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Türhüter,” which means “Before the law stands a gatekeeper.” A man from the country comes to this gatekeeper and ask for permission to be granted access to the law. But the gatekeeper answers that for now, it is not possible. Having thought about this, the man asks if it would be possible later on. “Maybe,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”

In this little parable, the man from the country is kept waiting so long to be permitted to present his case that he dies. It is my hope that because the Native American people have persisted and have held up a mirror to the gatekeeper, which is the university, which is me and others, and show us what we have done and what we are doing, I hope that we can change the ending to this story.

I’m going to now come finally to my talk. But before I do that, I want to take a moment to recognize that UC Berkeley sits on a territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people, the successors of the sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Muwekma Ohlone tribe and other familial descendants of the Verona Band.

It’s vitally important that we not only recognize the history of the land on which the university stands, but also, we recognize that the Muwekma Ohlone people are alive and flourishing members of the Berkeley and broader Bay Area communities today. This land acknowledgement is an abridged version of a co-created one by the Muwekma Ohlone tribe and Native Student Development and it’s a living document, so it can change as we go forward. And this is a recreation, an image of an Ohlone village. First, I’ll talk about the ancestors and their sacred belongings.

UC Berkeley holds the ancestral remains of more than 9,594 Native American individuals. That looks like a very exact number, but it’s deceptive. I have read the work of Tony Platt, as a historian, I’ll reference him later. And Tony points out that this is probably a significant undercount because there will be a count that counts a box, a burial site, and there may be several individuals in that burial site, for example. So it’s probably an undercount. Of that 9,594, more than 9,000 were taken from California. So, the holdings of the university, the ancestral remains, are predominantly California. And more than 2,000 of them come from Alameda County, where the university is sitting. And I should say that about two-thirds of these remains were taken from the counties around the Bay Area, about five counties.

I want to also point out that the creek that runs through the campus was a site of an Ohlone settlement. So, as we walk across campus every day, we’re actually walking on the land that was occupied by the Ohlone people. And also, the university holds, in addition to ancestral remains, about 122,000 sacred belongings that were taken from Californian tribes.

This is an image of the Emeryville Shellmound. Some of you may be familiar with this, where the Emeryville mall now stands at that area by the Bay. There used to be an enormous shellmound. The shellmound was a place where the Native people of this area buried their dead. It was a sacred site. And you can see that the dance pavilion was built on top of this mound, and before it later it was destroyed and there was a mall put there. And the ancestors that were buried in this mound, many of them are in the university’s holdings.

How did the ancestors and the sacred belongings get to the university? I’m going to give the very broad basic historical background of that was, of course, a genocide and dislocation of tribes. California Natives were targeted, especially during the United States period for actual killing and dislocation, cultural genocide and so on. Native Americans were viewed as a dying or disappearing race, and so that was an excuse. They would say, “We need to collect these things because the people are dying.” And so, that was one of the motivations for collection.

This was all predicated on the fact that Native Americans were viewed as racially inferior and they lacked legal standing. So, people did things to the remains and the belongings of Native American people that they would not have allowed each other to do to the remains of European colonists, for example, or American colonists.

There was a drive, especially around the turn of the century and the beginning of the 20th century, toward collection and exhibition. And this was something that pushed forward the amassing these enormous amounts of ancestral remains and belongings. And then, the development of anthropology as a discipline within the university also led to a drive to collect, amass a large number of ancestral remains and belongings. And one of the disciplines, a sub-discipline in anthropology, was craniometry, which is the measurement of skulls and very frequently this was used in a racist context distinguishing between races. UC Berkeley anthropologists collected ancestral remains and belongings and they urged others to do so.

I wanted to point you toward a book that has informed some of my understanding of what happened to Californian Natives. An American Genocide was written by a colleague from UCLA, Benjamin Madley, and it tells the history of the Native Californians, so what happened to them under colonization. This is a quote: “The largest collection of California Indian material in the world.” This is a quote from the museum director in 1989. And I wanted to reference … I misspelled Tony’s name. It’s not Tony Pratt. It’s Tony Platt, my apologies. P-L-A-T-T and Danielle Elliot, who put together a chronology. I’m going to just give you a few beginning highlights of this chronology to give you a sense of it. But it continues.

So, in 1873 South Hall, which is one of the oldest buildings on campus, if not the oldest, opened up a room called the Museum of Anthropology with skulls from the Pacific coast. In 1875, UC actually announced that it was looking for sellers and donors to provide them with Indian antiquities, skulls as I was mentioning before, weapons and other items. In 1902 with funding from Phoebe Hearst, our anthropology museum is named for her. The archeologist, Max Uhle, he’s a German, led in an excavation of the Emeryville Shellmound, which I showed you there and many burials were exhumed. And of course, these ancestral remains that were brought into the campus.

In 1906, Alfred offered Kroeber, whom we will be talking about a little bit later. He’s a very significant figure in anthropology, especially at UC Berkeley. He reported that systematic collection of photographs and measurements of living Indians has been undertaken. And so not only were there measurements of skulls, but there were also measurements being done of the skulls and the bodies of living Native Californians. And he planned to cover the entire state. Kroeber became … I misspelled his name too, sorry. Kroeber became the museum director in 1908. And this we’re going to talk a little bit later about the naming and the un-naming of Kroeber Hall.

This chronology that Tony Platt and Danielle Elliot compiled extends all the way into the 1980s when the university still accepted a few gifts. The collection mania continued through the 30s, I would say, and one can follow in this chronology how engaged amateur collectors became, the university encouraged them and amateurs would go out and find Native American ancestral remains and materials and give them to the university. I think the essential point here is that the development of the collection was a response to a belief in the scientific value of Native American bodies and artifacts without regard to the feeling of Native American surviving people. And it was part of university culture and academic practice.

I mentioned that this timeline continues since the 80s. Native American activism also starts up in the 60s, 70s and 80s. And by 1990, there was a success by the Native American activists in getting a law passed called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. And that was the acronym, NAGPRA, that I was referring to earlier. This is the homepage for the NAGPRA website. It is a federal office.

So NAGPRA, what is NAGPRA? I mentioned what it stands for, and the fact that it was the product of Native American activism. It requires that institutions like ours that are funded by federal law consult with tribes and create inventories and summaries of Native American ancestral remains and sacred objects that we possess with the intention of returning them. So, we can talk a little bit more about that. But the inventories and summaries then have to be sent to the tribes and to the federal government. And ancestors or belongings that have been affiliated, I’ll talk about affiliation in a second here, and the notice has been given for at least 30 days. After that happens, legal and physical transfer can occur. So, this is the process that was put into place to try to return to Native Americans their ancestors and their sacred belongings.

Now, NAGPRA was signed into law in 1990, as I mentioned, and in 1993, Berkeley submitted summaries. A summary is just a general description of Native American funerary objects that have not, now we get into some legalistic terms, they’re called unassociated funerary objects. And what that means is there are sometimes objects that were buried with an individual, but they have been separated from that individual and they’re no longer together with the individual, so they’re called unassociated. So, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. And that’s a very broad category that can include a lot of different kinds of things. And you create a summary of these things for the tribe to consult with you about.

So, as I was mentioning earlier, UC Berkeley had it that had accumulated an enormous collection. And the collection was not very well organized or documented, there were a lot of paper records, things were in disarray. And so, when the federal government required that the university create an inventory, inventory is a simple object-by-object list of all Native American human remains and associated funerary objects, that the university was having a very difficult time doing so both because of the record keeping being in disarray, the very large number of ancestral remains and objects that the university had collected and also the museum was understaffed. Didn’t really have any. And so, they were trying to do this, but they were not making it, so they had to ask for an extension.

And then, in 1998, they asked for a second extension, but the government didn’t want to give them one, they threatened them with fines and so on. So, there’s a history of not being able to meet the demands of NAGPRA with our university. And in 2000, the university submitted its inventories. At the time, though, when they submitted the inventories, I’m going to explain that in a second, but really only 14% of the collection was described as something that could be affiliated. I’ll talk about that here in a second.

So, as I mentioned, they were understaffed, the records were in terrible shape. There had also not been a systematic physical survey. By that I mean you have to look into every box, you have to really be able to describe precisely how many individuals are there, what kinds of objects were there. There was sometimes a question of whether there were animal remains mixed in with the human, faunal remains. So, the collection had not been surveyed adequately. And as I mentioned before, as also I said, Tony Platt mentioned in his work, the inventories don’t necessarily represent the number of individuals but burial lots. So, there could be more than one individual within a burial lot.

The federal government required two lists, and this is a significant point. It’s a little bit difficult to follow. They required one list of culturally affiliated individuals and objects, which meant that the objects or the individuals could be associated with a federally recognized tribe. Now, in California, we have 109 federally recognized tribes. But we have another 65, according to the Native American Heritage Commission. I’ll talk about them in a second, too. We have another 65 that are not federally recognized. And it happens that the tribes right around the Bay are, to a degree, many of them are not federally recognized. And you’ll recall that I was explaining where the ancestral remains came from in the collection that we hold.

A large proportion of those ancestors came from the land where we sit, and the tribes that occupied those lands are not necessarily federally recognized. And so, there’s this other category called “culturally unidentified,” which makes it sound as if we can’t figure out who these remains are or where they came from. But we do know where they come from. It’s just that they didn’t come from the ancestral land of a federally recognized tribe. So, when the items were culturally identified, the tribes didn’t have the same standing under the national law and couldn’t bring cases in the same way. And so, to a large degree, the university was not able to maintain these ancestral remains because they weren’t protected under federal law in the same way that culturally unidentified ones.

And in fact, university policy that was established continuously up until very recently, until the new policy, researchers were allowed to do research and teach using these culturally identified remains. 86% of the collection was not culturally affiliated in the inventories. So, that’s a very large portion that was identified as not falling under NAGPRA, precisely. So, besides that obstacle of the culturally unidentified, and I’m going to return to this problem in a second, there were other obstacles that the university has set in the way of repatriation. And this was certainly the perception of tribes that these were obstacles that were created to prevent them from receiving their ancestors. And I have to say that that perception looks real to me too.

So, for one thing, when cases were presented to be considered for repatriation, what happened would be a tribe would consult and would present some evidence or information about why they felt something should be returned to them. And then the university would look at this and they would also look at the reports of anthropologists, they would read the archeology, they would read the anthropology, they would look at the bones themselves. And there was a very clear tendency to favor scientific or academic arguments over those of Native Americans, who had traditional knowledge, for example, or who would bring their own historical knowledge. So, a very high bar was set for scientific proof in order to have remains affiliated and returned. That was one obstacle. Tribal knowledge or tradition was given less weight.

I should say that in NAGPRA, in the law, we are supposed to take tribal knowledge or tradition into account and it’s supposed to have weight. But it was given less weight. Tribal representatives were not invited to participate in community committee discussions. So, after the university would create a report about the potential affiliation, they would give it to a committee, and the committee looks at over the NAGPRA Advisory Committee and makes a determination. And at the time, tribal representatives were not invited to come in and present their side directly to the committee. The committee, up until 1917, I’m sorry, 1917, 2017, 2018, was composed of museum curators. And so, there was a sense that the museum had an interest in maintaining its collection. And so, this committee constellation felt like an obstacle.

The university didn’t really set a time limit on how long it would wait for tribes to object. So, if you had a tribe that wanted to make an affiliation, they would ask to make the affiliation and we would contact other tribes to ask them if they were interested. And we would wait for them to respond. And if they didn’t respond, then we would not affiliate. Instead of affiliating, we were not affiliating. And then tribes are asked to submit more and more supporting evidence. And in fact, when I first arrived, I saw a case, I sat in on a case where a tribe had submitted their case 14 years earlier. And they had been asked to resubmit and give more evidence and give more explanations, and so on. And so, there was a sense on their part that they were just being stalled. And as I mentioned before, research and teaching continued with culturally unidentified remains.

So, there were these problems, and it meant that … I should say that the University of California, Berkeley, is by far the, as the person proudly announced in 1989, the largest collection of Native California material. And the fact that we were so slow in returning things meant that people were waiting, and there was just a sense that this repatriation was never going to happen. And so Native people, California Native people, began to lobby hard to get an adjustment to the law. And this is sort of typical for California, instead of having just the federal law, California developed a law of its own on repatriation, which is called CalNAGPRA. And the first version of this was passed in 2001.

The idea was that CalNAGPRA would help cover gaps in NAGPRA. And when we talk about gaps, you’ll understand that one of the things I’m talking about is the fact that people who were from tribes in California that were not federally recognized, did not have the kind of standing that they needed to really press forward and get their ancestors back. And so, this was one of the reasons to pass CalNAGPRA. Also, to establish more oversight over actors like the University of California, Berkeley, who were not doing the repatriation that they needed to do. Again, in 2018, frustrated at slow progress and obstacles to repatriation, Native Californians successfully lobbied to pass AB-2836. And they gave the Native American Heritage Commission, which is a state organization, excuse me, oversight. It’s not affiliated with the state, but it’s approved by the state, including providing assistance to the University of California.

Now, I’m talking about system-wide, not just University of California, Berkeley, but all of the University of California campuses. They wanted to provide assistance to expedite repatriation of remaining items. And the law is very specific about what kind of what kind of assistance or oversight there should be because there was a strong feeling that we were not doing our job, and we needed to have oversight, and we needed to have improved process and improved policy. And so this mandated a committee that the Native American Heritage Commission would appoint. Now as I mentioned earlier, the University of California, Berkeley, had a NAGPRA Advisory Committee earlier on that was basically curatorial. And we change that in anticipation of this law passing.

But the law stipulates that we should have three university members and three Native Californians, one from a non-federally recognized tribe. And the policy is going to take effect soon. And we are looking forward to receiving the recommendations for committee members from the American Heritage Commission. The law also stipulated that we needed to update our policy, that the University of California needed to update our policy, including this new committee structure, but also making sure that there were appeals processes in place and so on. There were a number of stipulations in the law that the policy is expected to align with.

And just to give you a sense, a very brief visual sense, you won’t be able to read all the little names on this map. But this is a map from the Native American Heritage site on the tribes with the tribes of California. It gives you a sense of the living people, these are all living people up and down the state, whose interests the Native American Heritage Commission wants to represent. And I already mentioned that there were 109 federally recognized tribes, and another 65 that are recognized by the state by the Native American Heritage Commission, but not the federal government. And with the new law, we are obliged to consult with the non-federally recognized tribes. So this is a piece of the law that is going to be very important for the native people in our area, especially.

The new university-wide policy. I feel like, as an administrator, I’ve become a bit of a policy wonk. But this is a very critical and important set of rules that we now are going to follow. President Janet Napolitano, the former president, and Chancellor Carol Christ both announced support of a new direction, which is complete repatriation as a primary goal. There had always been a little bit of tension between the complete repatriation idea and the sort of maintaining the scientific collection, but that is no longer there. We no longer allow teaching or research on the ancestral remains or artifacts of Native people without express permission from the tribes.

The UC system appoints a committee with a strong NAGPRA representation to write a new policy. So, there was a committee appointed. With the passage of this new law, UC, systemwide, appointed a committee that had strong Native representation, as well as representation from the different UC campuses to write this new policy in compliance with the new law. I sat at the table for some of the discussions on the new policy. We had representation there from Berkeley, but the important representatives were Native people.

In 2017, my boss, Vice Chancellor Randy Katz appointed a new NAGPRA Advisory Committee. So, this was the last passing, we could anticipate that we needed to change our practices. And so we took away the old committee and we installed the new one that had strong Native representation.

These are all campus-affiliated people who have expertise in areas of history and anthropology, Native culture, Native history, but more than half of them are Native people as well. The Phoebe Hearst Museum under the direction of professor Lauren Kroiz and Dr. Caroline Fernald have developed a strategic plan. They’re in the process of developing it oriented towards decolonization and repatriation. And in 2020, our office appointed Dr. Tom Torma as the NAGPRA liaison to the vice chancellor. Tom’s job is to do outreach to tribes, be the point person for tribal contact, arrange for consultations, work with them to return their ancestors, improve Native relations. So, he has a very large task before him, but he is our point person for Native American contact under NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA.

And if we look at who all in the deciding chain or who all is in the team working on repatriation, the person who has the ultimate deciding power in repatriation decisions on campus is Chancellor Christ. She actually has overturned us one time. So, she does use her deciding power. The vice chancellor for research, my boss, he’s what they call the designee. He’s a campus NAGPRA official, so he makes a recommendation about repatriation. He makes a decision about it after hearing the recommendation of the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. I am Randy’s deputy. I very often represent him in Native American affairs. One of the reasons he appointed me to do that was, as Susan Hoffman mentioned at the beginning, I have done some research on Native Americans, and he felt that I would have interest and engagement there. But he’s very much engaged himself as well.

I mentioned the NAGPRA liaison, the NAGPRA Advisory Committee, professor Sabrina Agarwal has been the chair and she is herself an osteological anthropologist. But she is a very principled and ethical one and extremely proactive in the cause of repatriation. And then, we have the directorship and staff of the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, who are deeply engaged in doing this work and are critical to helping us with organizing and working with tribes. I just have a brief list of the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. I don’t have to go through all of them, but we have them up online, just to give you a sense of the breadth of representation on the committee and our commitment to representation of Native people on the committee.

What has happened since July, when Tom was appointed? We’re trying to step up our actions on repatriation. We’ve made 12 transfers of control. That’s the legal term. But it just means that once we have affiliated something, once we’ve decided who it belongs to, or they help us decide, then we transfer the control of the ancestors the object to them legally. And then, transfer possession is when we actually give them the ancestors or sacred belongings back. We have three that are waiting approval from the tribes, we have three that are on our calendar to keep going. We’ve made five notices in the Federal Register, that’s when we have an inventory item that we’re putting up. We have three notices waiting for publication. And we have general direction from the campus Committee.

The campus NAGPRA Advisory Committee has said that they are going to accept tribal definitions of NAGPRA terms, and make consultation and repatriation as simple as possible. So, that’s a commitment that we have made explicitly. Those are things that have happened within a relatively short timeframe. That gives us hope that we are going to be able to move more quickly in the future with the help of tribes and consultation with tribes. And I’ve been involved in a couple of consultations recently and I feel have gone very, very well. One, where we repatriated to the Delaware people, for example. And we have another one that we just completed with a Californian tribe.

Some of the struggles that we still have in enforcing policy, one of the requirements of policy, is that we make sure that all of the remains that could potentially come under NAGPRA or CalNAGPRA are in the control of the NAGPRA unit and not sitting in someone’s office or in someone’s lab. And we were enforcing the policy, we went around and we said, “Please tell us if you have anything, give it to us.” And we made a discovery that some ancestral remains had been held in a lab. And unfortunately, those remains should have gone back and then reburied with other ancestors that had already been returned. So, this is very, very painful for the tribe and caused further pain and injury.

We need to correct our inventories. As I mentioned, 86% were non-affiliated, but that’s probably not correct. So, we’re going to go back and look along with tribes carefully at our inventories, and also get things into order. We need to finish inspecting our collection physically and have a better record of that collection. I think, more broadly, it’s really incumbent on us to acknowledge and teach and memorialize the history of California and the university and its relationship to Native people. And we must apologize for the actions of the past and for continuing hurts that that go on because of our lack of action, because we have not followed through. We owe that to the Native people. And we have to repair relations with tribes and treat them as equal partners.

We have some good examples of things that have happened that some of you may know about, such as the Breath of Life program, where tribes work together with linguists to preserve them learn their languages, and also form their own language learning groups. And we’ve hosted tribal people at the museum so that they can have the opportunity to learn how to maintain care of their ancestors and see what’s going on in the museum. We have relationships with tribes, where they’re working with people in agriculture and natural resources to maintain agricultural practices or revive agricultural practices. So there are a number of ways in which native knowledge and native wisdom can contribute ritually to the life of the university. And we want to commit to treating them as equal partners and as members of our community as well.

We must move without hesitation to restore justice, which is only partially … Repatriation is a very big part of that. But there are many other things that need to happen to repair relationships with Native people. The chancellor also has an advisory council that’s working on a broader Native American initiative that goes beyond just repatriation, but looks at inclusion of Native American people in the community, supporting the Native American people in the community, and the kinds of intellectual partnerships that I was alluding to.

Finally, I’m just going to say a couple words about renaming and un-naming. When Susan Hoffman first asked me to speak, she said, “Well, can you speak about naming and un-naming?” Unlike repatriation, I haven’t been involved in this process. And so, I didn’t feel like I could speak to it from a very informed point of view. But I am going to say just a couple of words on my own thoughts about this, and they should be taken as my own thoughts.

First of all, colonization in itself is an act of naming and renaming. People come upon a land and they start naming it differently and calling it their own. The name California, for example, is thought to be taken from the 16th century Spanish novel. So, this area where we live that we now call California, obviously, was not called California before. And it acquired this name when colonists arrived.

When we talk about the name of the building, which is what we were talking about, about un-naming, the memorialization of a person and the name of a building is really the memorialization of an idea that’s represented by that person. And in the case of Albert Kroeber, it was the discipline of anthropology and the driving force that he was behind the development of that discipline. So, there is a Kroeber, who is a person, Albert Kroeber, and then there was a Kroeber who was the thing that motivated the naming of Kroeber Hall. And we can separate them completely, but some of the people who protested against the un-naming in of Kroeber Hall were saying, “Well, Kroeber was not such a bad person. He did good things. He did linguistic research. He made sure that some of the languages were preserved. He wasn’t a eugenics guy.”

And these things are true. It’s not necessarily about painting Albert Kroeber as an absolute villain, because when we talk about responsibility for what happened, it’s a shared responsibility. The objection to his name has to do with the symbolic value of his name. It has to do with some actions that he did, as well. I don’t want to absolve him of that. He did urge the collection of Native American ancestors. He was out there urging the Native Americans be measured, and so on. But it was very much a disciplinary structure and an intellectual structure and a racist structure that motivated these things. That’s what is being removed when we remove Kroeber from Kroeber Hall, is that entire edifice of racialized understanding of human beings.

And so, un-naming becomes a kind of act of naming. What we’re naming in un-naming for Kroeber Hall is we’re naming the racist underpinnings of what motivated the amassing of a collection of ancestral remains that people who had been disrespected, disregarded and killed, disenfranchised. That’s what we’re naming when we un-name something. And we’ll see how we rename. We haven’t renamed yet. It’s the anthropology and our practice. But I think that it’s important for us to be conscious of the fact that we, too, live in history, and we, too, are going to have to make mistakes. Holding a mirror up to ourselves, I think is of critical importance in this.

I think that’s all I have to share now. That’s been a lot. And I see that there are some maybe questions or comments in the chat. I don’t know if I can enter anything in the chat myself. Because I was going to enter my email address. But in any case, maybe Susan, if you had any questions that you had for me that you wanted to filter out. I probably won’t have time to answer everything, and that’s why I wanted to enter my email and Tom Torma’s email in the chat, so that people will have direct contact with us. But go ahead, Susan.

Susan Hoffman: Yes, Linda, thank you very much. This is extraordinarily important, the work that you’ve been involved in, and I think a variety of people who are joining us today, in looking at the chat, there’s an incredible amount of information in question. There’s also, as one might expect, deeply stirring emotions. And I think one of the things that we’re dealing with in hearing some of this for the first time, and for many, it’s a known history, is the role that the university has played. And up until now, has been deeply conflicted and not moving forward as fast as one might hope.

There will be a video of today’s talk. It will be posted after we’ve had a chance to do the captioning, and then we’ll post it to the OLLI YouTube site. And it will be available through the OLLI at Berkeley website as well. That means that your slides will be available and the content is, and we will also seek to find a way to also answer some of the questions if we do not get to them today. There were a variety of questions around how to support the non-federally recognized tribes, since that seems to be a fairly important part of the process. And I don’t know, Linda, if that’s something you feel comfortable responding to? Do you feel comfortable responding to that?

Linda Haverty Rugg: About why they are not federally recognized or how they achieve federal recognition?

Susan Hoffman: Correct. If in fact, whether or not it is something that interested people can help support the unrecognized tribes in this effort.

Linda Haverty Rugg: There are different reasons why tribes are not federally recognized. And some people on the chat have alluded to these, and some of them have to do with the peculiar history of California, and how our treaties with the federal government were different or didn’t exist in the same way.

Federal recognition, to some degree, depends on things that happened in history. This is something I was going to point out, but I didn’t. We’re not talking about ancient history here. This is not a million years ago. What happened, as you noticed in the timeline I was giving you, some of the things that happened are in the memories of our parents or our grandparents.

And so, in the 1950s, for example, the federal government made a move to, they used the word “terminate,” they terminated I think it was 49 Californian tribes that had had federal recognition, but they decided to terminate them. And they use different kinds of reasons to do that. But the real motivating force in terminating the tribes was that they wanted Native Americans to assimilate. And this also had to do with the urbanization process, they wanted Native Americans to move off of reservations and move into urban settings. This was happening during the lifetime of some of the people on the call, probably. I know my OLLI audience. It was not ancient history.

And so, the process of recognizing and supporting Native Californians and other Native tribes, one can do that by working with Native people. I mentioned the Native American Heritage Commission, that’s the organ that is working to support California tribes. Becoming familiar with these organizations and with the people who are working in these areas would definitely help. I think just informing oneself about these things. I’m not a person who specializes in achieving federal recognition for tribes. There might be somebody on the call who is, who would put their name. Of course, the federal government doesn’t make it easy. It’s terribly difficult. And the kinds of information that it tries to sometimes produce as evidence of who they are, are things that were stolen from them or destroyed by colonists.

So, it’s very, very difficult sometimes for a tribe to come forward and make those arguments. And I think one of the reasons that CalNAGPRA has really pushed forward the idea of working with non-federally recognized tribes is because the process has been made so difficult, and Californians deserve recognition for who they are. That’s why this is sort of a typical California move, also, to try to get around the federal government, making our own law. But I think that was really very, very necessary. I don’t know if I can really answer that question fully. But it has to do with treaties, it has to do with history, it has to do with what kinds of relationships can be proven, and so on.

Susan Hoffman: Let’s return to our own history as UC Berkeley. Our colleague, Deborah Lustig, asked the question, or makes the comment, that there was a lot of resistance from the UC Berkeley faculty on NAGPRA. Is there any anything more that you can offer on what that resistance was about?

Linda Haverty Rugg: Yeah. I can offer some information on it. I think first of all that, that level of resistance has receded very significantly, and that things are changing within the field of anthropology, for example. So if I look at my colleague, Sabrina Agarwal, who is the chair — I mentioned her as the chair of the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. She is, as I mentioned, an osteological anthropologist. But the anthropology that she practices and the way she thinks about working with human remains is very, very different from the way, not only the way Kroeber would have thought of it, but the way some other more recent anthropologists would think about it. So, there definitely has been an evolutionary change in the field of anthropology, even in the past 10 to 15 years, that has meant that there is much more attention being paid to the voices of Indigenous people and their rights and so on.

But there were scientists on campus, or people on campus, who felt very strongly and there’s some of this in the chat, too, where people are like, “Well, this is important scientific material.” I mean, I had one of the colleagues, I’m not going to name any names, I had a colleague say to me, “You’re supposed to be the office of research. Why are you inhibiting research by giving these Native American remains back to people and they’ll just be buried and we’ll lose all of this incredibly valuable genetic research material.”

I mean, my understanding of this is like, there’s a lot of really interesting genetic material over in the cemetery in Oakland, too. You wouldn’t allow someone to go in there with a backhoe and take people out of there because there is interesting material. We understand that it’s a crime. It’s a crime even to draw, like to put graffiti on a gravestone.

It definitely is a crime in our culture to use a person’s body after death in a way for which they have not given permission. And the descendants of people are also allowed to make decisions about this, as well. So, I think that we can’t make this about science. It has to be about human rights. But there have been people who have wanted to argue — I will be very fair about this, very open about this — I have also spoken to some Native people who say, “Well, we would like to have that information. We would like to have research done.” But they’re very much in the minority, first of all. And second of all, that would be their choice. It should not be our choice as to whether we’re going to do. So, that’s why we have a stipulation that we have to have permission.

I want to say one thing I saw fleetingly on the chat was a comment from Patrick Naranjo, who works with Native graduate students on campus that is disturbing even to hear about these things. I want to acknowledge that. It’s very hard to talk about these things. And I know that for Native people and for other people, too, that it’s very disturbing to hear about the way that these ancestral remains were collected and treated. I acknowledge that it is difficult and that the emotions are very deep.

Susan Hoffman: Linda, thank you. We have time just for one more question. And what I’d like to do is go to the first question that had been posed as you were speaking, which was from Leticia Miller, who is the vice chairwoman to EveryOne, who asked the question, “Will there be an investigation to find the missing items?”

Linda Haverty Rugg: Leticia, I’m not really 100% sure if you’re alluding to what I mentioned about. Okay. So, first of all, there have been missing items that she may be aware of. And this was one of the things that happened because of the poor record keeping in the past. I think that there are at least a couple of things that I know of, a couple of items that have been missing that we are looking for, and that we are … One of the things in the policy is that we are obligated to tell tribes if there’s something missing. If we redo our inventory and we find that there’s something gone, we have to notify them so that they know. But then the other piece is trying to find where the items are.

I mentioned that part of the policy also was to go to the university community and ask people to, not ask, require them to return anything that they may be holding that could be Native American, so that we can make sure that everything is gathered together and we can keep the ancestors together. I don’t know if that answers your question, Leticia. But my email is in the chat. So, if you want to follow up, please do that.

Susan Hoffman: Linda, thank you very much. I think we’ve gone a bit over time. But we really appreciate that we had this hour and we have all of the ways in which you are teaching us more about what matters. We’ll continue to look on how OLLI, the members specifically, might be better educated about what’s at stake. We’ve had the good fortune of having classes and speaker opportunities with Karina Gould and with Tony Platt, also with others. I’m glad to add this to the body of work into suggests that there’s other things that we can do in informing the OLLI membership and thinking further about engaged citizens how we can be most helpful. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today.

Linda Haverty Rugg: All right. Thank you. Bye.

Susan Hoffman: Thanks.