GRIC Tribal Historic Preservation Officer appointed to NAGPRA Review Committee by Sec. Zinke

July 6, 2018


Roberto A. Jackson

Gila River Indian News


The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the appointments of three new members to the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee including Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Barnaby V. Lewis. The Review Committee was established by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA), and according to a DOI press release the committee, “monitors, reviews, and assists in the implementation of certain requirements of the Act.”


Along with Lewis, the DOI announced the appointment of John Beaver, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and Honor K. Keeler of the Cherokee Nation.    


“I am grateful that John, Honor and Barnaby have agreed to serve on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee,” said Ryan K. Zinke, Secretary of the Interior.


Zinke also sent a letter in May to Lewis informing him of the appointment.


The Review Committee consists of seven members and according to the July 2016 DOI Federal Register Notice of Nomination Solicitation, “Three members are appointed from nominations submitted by Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and traditional Native American religious leaders.”


Lewis will serve a four-year term.


After the nomination was announced, the Four Southern Tribes Cultural Resources Working Group, which consists of GRIC, the Tohono O’odham Nation, Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, met in August of 2016 and agreed to submit formal letters in support of Lewis’ nomination. 


The letters cited Lewis’ experience in NAGPRA compliance and his qualifications as a traditional religious leader.


Lewis is a GRIC member and started as a Cultural Resource Specialist with the Cultural Resource Management Program in 1998. The THPO oversees all NAGPRA related activities and repatriations on behalf of the Community and coordination of reburial.


Reylynne Williams, Cultural Resource Specialist, said that the four southern tribes have wanted representation on the committee for several years. Lewis was previously nominated in 2008. Williams said it is important to have someone from this area, “who can speak to our concerns and who can address concerns relating to NAGPRA.”


Those concerns deal with the return of ancestral remains or cultural objects back to the tribes nationwide. 


Lewis said the Community has been, “successful in bringing ancestors home from Idaho, California, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New York and even Maine.”


Lewis said it is their number one priority to bring everybody home. “It’s with great respect that we attend to these matters on behalf of the people. It’s an honorable responsibility that we have and we still continue to pursue every legal action possible to bring all the ancestors home.”


The Community is currently seeking remains from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University that were removed over one hundred years ago.


Williams said there have not been any recent NAGPRA Review Committee meetings and that the tribes and groups who work under NAGRPA are eager to reconvene and address many of the unresolved issues.