by James May
15 October 2004
Calif.—The United States House of Representatives
approved a Republican- sponsored amendment that would
waive the laws protecting American Indian sacred sites
in the construction of a security barrier just south of
San Diego on the U.S./Mexico border.
amendment passed the House of Representatives by a 256
to 160 vote and seeks to waive several federal laws
governing construction along the last three miles of the
proposed 14-mile security barrier including the Native
American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
and the National Historic Preservation Act. In all 215
of 221 Republicans in the House voted for the amendment.
enacting federal laws and implementing federal mandates,
we promised Native Americans that we would protect and
preserve their places of worship, resting places for the
deceased and religious freedom. This amendment breaks
that promise by not providing any mechanism for notice
or consultation upon finding any cultural, ceremonial or
historical sites,'' said Rep. Dale Kildee, one of the
most vocal critics of the amendment.
security barrier has its origins in legislation passed
by congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996 to
build such a barrier and the bill's supporters claim
that they are just expediting the original mandate.
amendment virtually guarantees that the federal builders
of the security fence could disregard these laws if any
sacred sites, burial grounds or historically important
artifacts are found while building the last three miles
of the barrier.
amendment's author, Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., contends
the barrier is essential to national security. Ose's
Press Secretary Megan Taormino referred the matter to a
press release that contained the congressman's floor
statements, in which Ose stressed the security barrier
as essential to prevent potential terrorists from
entering the United States.
can't afford to wait,'' said Ose in the press release.
in the press release Ose cited a ''a merry-go-round of
endless litigation and stalling tactics have shut down
construction and blocked the permitting process under
the guise of protecting the environment.''
went on to claim that the environment in the area has
already been negatively effected and specifically lists
the Tijuana Estuary as being particularly damaged by
statements, however, do not directly address the
suspension of NAGPRA for this project and his press
secretary did not return requests for further comment
before press time.
he claims that there are environmental issues at stake
Kildee's Press Secretary Peter Karafotas said his boss'
main concern is the protection of sacred sites and
Karafotas also said that the environmental concerns are
equally important, especially in light of the fact that
the proposed construction area abuts the coastal zone
and power is taken away from the California Coastal
Commission to enforce existing laws.
fact Karafotas said all his boss wanted to do was make
sure that existing laws are enforced regarding federal
also said his boss fears the precedent that such a law
could set for other sacred areas and burial sites across
just too big a risk,'' said Karafotas. ''If remains or
sites are found while they [build the barrier] tribes
will not have to be consulted and the laws governing
their protection will be thrown right out.''
he concedes that no sites have yet been found along the
proposed construction site, Karafotas also contends that
given the large and long-standing American Indian
presence in the area - San Diego County has 18 tribes -
it increase the chances that culturally-sensitive sites
might be found.
Country Today October 15, 2004. All Rights Reserved