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Nevada Division of Museums and History to get staff to handle historic sites

Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

With a bill tightening controls to stop grave robbers and repatriate American Indian burial sites as leverage, the Division of Museums and History on Thursday won support to restore a position to manage those activities.

The bill requires the museums division to issue a permit before any excavations can occur, manages the process of turning those remains over to tribal authorities and increases penalties for defacing prehistoric sites.

Eugene Hattori, the division’s curator of anthropology, told the Senate Finance Committee that position was responsible for most of the $156,052 fiscal note they put on SB244.

He said they had a person whose primary duties was handling that process and issuing permits for excavations at burial sites. He said that position was cut during the recession, halting most permits.

The bill requires the museums division to issue a permit before any excavations can occur, manages the process of turning those remains over to tribal authorities and increases penalties for defacing prehistoric sites.

“We’re approximately five years behind,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, asked if there was any other way to amend the bill that would eliminate that cost. Hattori said no, that museums is required to follow federal laws that order reviews of a long list of factors in determining how to repatriate exhumed remains of American Indians discovered during other activities including not just location but biology, kinship, archaeology, anthropology and oral tradition.

Other members of the committee suggested passing the bill and sending it to the Interim Finance Committee to decide whether they need to fund that position but Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, disagreed.

“If the division needs the position to get the job done, we shouldn’t give them the workload if we don’t give them the position,” he said.

Other members of the committee agreed and voted to add the permit staff funding to the bill.

Hattori said after the vote the division has about 200 applications pending.

“We’re woefully behind,” he said.


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