Published January 10, 2016
LAC DU FLAMBEAU, WISCONSIN—The State of Wisconsin is currently considering legislation designated AB 620 that would permit the opening of pre-historic burial mounds for exploration, mining and other commercial purposes.
Burial and effigy mounds in Wisconsin have long been afforded protection from exploration and exploitation out of respect for pre-historic people, their wondrous community efforts, their remains, and their religious and cultural practices.
The proposed legislation directly opposes the policy and practice of the federal Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. State condonation of commercial exploitation of sacred sites would be a violation of trust equivalent to condoning the private disturbance of other, non-Native burial or religious sites contrary to deeply held religious beliefs.
The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. (GLITC) is a consortium of federally recognized Native American tribes located in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and the Board of Directors consists of the highest elected officials of the member tribes.
Pre-European-contact inhabitants and ancestors of American Indian tribes and groups in what is now Wisconsin constructed mounds and other works for religious and cultural purposes that are now obscure, and which are a matter of Native tradition and oral history. Currently recognized tribes are aware of burial and other sacred sites across Wisconsin that are located on lands that are now considered private property.
The proposed legislation would permit any landowner throughout the state to dispute the significance of mounds or other works, and to excavate, explore, exploit, and for that matter privately and covertly remove or destroy artifacts or human remains without oversight by independent archaeological experts.
The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. Board of Directors supports the Ho-Chunk Nation in its efforts to protect specific mounds in Wisconsin within territory historically occupied by the Ho-Chunk Nation and its Native ancestors.
Further, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. Board of Directors condemns the proposed legislation in the strongest terms as shameful ignorance and abuse of Native history, culture and religious practice.
The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. Board of Directors calls upon the Wisconsin Legislature to cease consideration of AB 620. In the event of passage into law, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. calls upon the Federal Trustee to assert federal and tribal interests in protected sites and to intervene in any attempt to violate the protection extended to Native burial and religious sites.
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