Suggested Discussion Outline

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Suggested Discussion Outline

Post by johnkarls »

Suggested Discussion Outline

Having taught part time over the years for NYU Law School’s Graduate Tax Division and tax law for Fordham U’s MBA Program, Yours Truly “had a field day” with our focus book “Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession” because of all the legal issues involved.

As was obvious from the content and length of this month’s so-called “Short Quiz.”

And from the decision at the outset to morph the meeting topic to include our long-pending matter of “The Mormon Church Condoning The Wanton Destruction of Great Salt Lake” since (as explained in our 1/14/2017 weekly e-mail posted in the “Original Proposal” section of the legal issues involved with ownership of land and ownership of what is on and under the land are so similar for both archaeology and water use.


Part I: Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession

A. Overall Impression

A-1. Much of Finders Keepers is muddled because our author insists on using criminal-law terms as a literary device for condemning actions he personally considers immoral.

A-2. Our author never discusses religion per se, but “reading between the lines” he seems to be over-awed by dealing with human remains and human artifacts.

A-3. Our author seems to think human remains and human artifacts are the focus of the overwhelming majority of humanity.

A-3-i. Query whether HUNTERS of archeological artifacts are more than a rounding error of U.S. residents (much less breaking the 1% mark).

A-3-ii. Query whether the COLLECTORS of archeological artifacts are more than a rounding error of U.S. residents (much less breaking the 1% mark).

A-3-iii. NB: In discussing Harvard U’s Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology (pp. 188-203), our author notes that its budget is inadequate to care for all of the artifacts that it has accepted, and notes that it is only downhill from The Peabody in that respect for all other museums!!!

B. Religion

B-1. The implied reason for the U.S Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 is that many Native-American Tribes worship their ancestors, similarly to Shintoism in Japan (and similarly to the affinity that residents of the People’s Republic of China still feel for their ancestors despite the destruction of religion by the Chinese Communists).

B-1-a. Query whether this is because Native Americans migrated millennia ago across the “land bridge” from China and Japan.

B-2. Hinduism believes in re-incarnation of the spirit up and down the animal chain depending on how good a life (or not) the spirit has lived -- capped (as we learned in last month’s book by Atul Gawande) by cremation of your human remains and having the ashes spread on the Ganges River as essential to eternal salvation (p. 260 of “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End”).

B-3. Most Christian Protestant Denominations believe that the human body is only a temporary abode for the human soul and has utterly no significance thereafter. (For example, Yours Truly has directed his body be cremated and the ashes tossed in the trash unless anyone wants them for garden fertilizer.)

C. Legal Matters Mentioned

C-1. An un-named and un-cited U.S. Statute of 1906 which made it illegal to remove artifacts from public land without permission.

C-2. The 1990 U.S. “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.”

C-3. The 1970 (though only effective vis-à-vis a particular country depending on the date of that country's ratification) UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (“illicit” if the origin is not clearly documented and the item is bought after the effective date of 1970 et seq.).

C-4. Implied American state and local laws regulating the preservation of artifacts found on both public-land and private-land construction sites (please see Chapter 9 entitled “Salvage Archaeology” pp 153-159 though there was no mention of how pervasive such laws are).

D. Our Author’s Agonizing Throughout The Book About What Should Be Done With Artifacts

D-1. His overall preference seems to be to leave them where they are un-touched, but recognizes that this merely postpones the time when someone else will take them (however illegal such a subsequent taking may be).

D-2. His second preference seems to be museums, but despite recognizing that museums can’t handle more than an insignificant fraction of them (ref. A-3-iii above) he never admits that this is an OVERWHELMINGLY-INADEQUATE solution.

D-3. He appears to approve of the 1990 U.S. “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.”

D-4. He also appears to approve the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

D-5. He whole-heartedly disapproves of private citizens who dig and collect -- whether legally (e.g., on private land in the U.S.) or illegally.

E. The Biggest Surprise???

For Yours Truly, it was the failure to even mention “The Trail of Tears”!!!

Pursuant to the U.S. “Indian Removal Act” of 1830 and for the next 20 years, the Eastern-U.S. tribes of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole were force-marched by military escort to land west of the Mississippi River, primarily Oklahoma.

Because of the high percentage of Native Americans who perished on the forced marches, as well as the force of the military escorts, “The Trail of Tears” is often compared to “The Bataan Death March” perpetrated on American troops during World War II by the Japanese.

[At least the Japanese, who had never ratified the Geneva Convention, believed that the only acceptable behavior when facing defeat was to commit suicide -- so from their cultural perspective, they were dealing with DISHONORABLE American troops who had refused to commit suicide!!!]

I would have thought that our author would have mentioned how these 5 tribes were forced to leave their ancestral homes AND THE BURIAL SITES OF THEIR ANCESTORS.

BTW, in brushing up on “The Trail of Tears” Yours Truly was surprised to remember that Florida State University still calls themselves “Seminoles.”

This despite the 2005 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rule banning Native-American nicknames unless permission of the Native-American Tribe involved is obtained.

In July 2005, the Seminole Nation General Council, the legislative body for the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, voted 18-2 not to oppose FSU’s continued use of the Seminole nickname.

Nonetheless, the portion of FSU’s official website that discusses the nickname issue, states in part:

“Florida State does not have a mascot. Instead, we have the honor of calling ourselves ‘Seminoles’ in admiration of the only Native American tribe never conquered by the U.S. Government.”

What kind of history does FSU teach???

“Never conquered” despite being rounded up by the U.S. Government and its minions, and sent under military escort on a forced “death march” to Oklahoma???


Part II: The Mormon Church Condoning The Wanton Destruction of Great Salt Lake

As mentioned in the introductory comments to this Suggested Discussion Outline, this topic was grafted onto our meeting’s focus because the legal issues of ownership of land and ownership of what is on and under the land are so similar for both archaeology and water use.

Indeed, their similarity is documented in detail in the Short Quiz and its Suggested Answers.

The first section of contains, inter alia, a posting containing the details of our campaign to prevent the wanton destruction of Great Salt Lake in order to grow uneconomic alfalfa hay that is exported to China.

Available for download from that posting as an Adobe.pdf file comprising a copy of the letter that we sent certified-mail-return-receipt to each of the top 15 officials of the Mormon Church who, together as a group, govern its affairs, imploring them to recognize that The Bear River Pipeline approved for funding and construction by the Utah State Legislature is a clear violation of Mormon Doctrine -- and to take effective action to stop the project.

In the 3 months since those letters were received, the Mormon Church has not taken any action.

Accordingly, it is time to consider one of our “Six Degrees of Separation E-mail Campaigns” to all of our friends and acquaintances, imploring them to join our Working Group in exploring the feasibility of (and, if possible, the institution of) a lawsuit against the U.S. Government for a Writ of Mandamus.

And imploring all of our friends and acquaintances to similarly implore all of their friends and acquaintances in an unending chain.

[NB: As explained in the Suggested Answers to this month’s Short Quiz, a Writ of Mandamus is a “plain-vanilla, garden-variety” court order to governmental officials to “do their duty” -- in this case to preserve the national environmental and ecological treasure that is Great Salt Lake.]

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