There were so many of our Indian people who went to Congress on behalf of the ancestors, with regards to repatriation of Indian remains, from 1960-1990. During these precarious times, a few senators began to architect provisions for a new act. They were the late Daniel K. Inouye and now the late John McCain. There were numerous letters and hearings of Indian people down through the early decades, but one letter struck a chord, a letter from an elder in Hawaii. The letter laid ground for what was to be represented in the Act, stating the importance of remains, objects and culture.
In November of 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was entered into law. This law included the protection of human remains, funerary/sacred objects and cultural patrimony. The Indian people needed leverage to help all Indian nations revive their sacred objects. The decades since have enabled the Indian tribes to repatriate numerous items, and over one year ago, rebury the Ancient One, where a new bill was introduced.
John McCain probably didn’t realize the impact he made when he supported repatriation, but it was huge and very relevant to our Indian rites-of-passage and the burial practices of our Indian people. His tracks will soon be washed away by the rain, but to us Indian people he will not be soon forgotten. From now on he will have become Una-Kuu-ii-Wa-Cha, legend.
When we heard of his passing, my father fell into a deep silence and I wept.