By Bob Katzen

The House gave initial approval to a bill that applies the federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to any museums and state agencies that receive state or local funding in the state of Massachusetts.

The federal law, according to the National Park Service’s website, “requires that federal agencies and museums receiving federal funds inventory holdings of Native American human remains, funeral-related and sacred objects and provide written summaries of other cultural items. The agencies and museums must consult with Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to attempt to reach agreements on the repatriation or other disposition of these remains and objects. Once lineal descent or cultural affiliation has been established, and in some cases the right of possession also has been demonstrated, lineal descendants, affiliated Indian tribes, or affiliated Native Hawaiian organizations normally make the final determination about the disposition of cultural items.

“The fundamental concept of the proposed state law is to build on the protections set forth under federal law … to explicitly incorporate such protections into Massachusetts state law,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. John Rogers (D-Cambridge).

Co-sponsor Rep. David Biele (D-South Boston) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his bill.

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