The fight over the remains of numerous “archaic hunter-gatherer” Indians held at the Witte Museum is far from settled. `See “Battle of the bones,” June 4, 2008.` While protestors haven’t been able to maintain their avowed weekly protests, several of the organizers will be back in front of the museum late-morning Saturday.
Juan Mancias, tribal chair of the Carrizo Nation, the Native American group most likely connected to several bundle burials held at the Witte, wants those remains returned for reburial — even if that takes an ongoing PR war against the museum. “I promised my ancestors I’d be there, and I’m going to be there as often as I possibly can,” he said.
Of course, federal law, specifically the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, only requires such returns when there is a federally recognized tribe to work with. Unfortunately, the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation, still weaving its way through the recognition process, hasn’t been “legitimized” by the Great White Father in Washington, D.C.
While Witte reps have begun meeting with the protestors, the pressure to work under NAGPRA guidelines has slowed the process, Mancias and others said.
But, hey, NAGPRA isn’t all that. According to Indian Country Today, a scathing new report by the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers and the Makah Nation of Washington spotlights the apparent misuse of NAGPRA funds, and the resulting failure of the U.S. Parks Service to return the remains of hundreds of native peoples for reburial.
Says Mancias of the Witte talks: “I think a lot of it is still argumentative at their part and they just want to keep holding on to the bones. I don’t even know why they want to hold onto them, really. They’ve already extracted enough DNA and did the studies on the mandibles. They should just put them back in the ground, whether they give them to us or not.”
Witte President Marise McDermott said another meeting will be held in the near future involving representatives from the archeological community.
“District 5 has gotten more attention this morning than ever!”
Lourdes Galvan was joking, but it was a slightly bitter joke. Each council member gets to pick a representative for the Electrical Supervisory Board, and that choice is almost invariably rubber-stamped with little debate. But Galvan, councilwoman for District 5, found herself having to vigorously defend her pick, Albert Cisneros, at the Council’s August 21 meeting.
No one objected to Cisneros, per se, but a host of citizens complained that the board is supposed to include three laypersons/consumers and currently only has one. They argued that the appointment of Cisneros, a master electrician who owns an electrician-training company, would create a lopsided board with too much representation for industry professionals and not enough for citizens.
District 9 Councilman Louis Rowe noted that he’d received more than 200 emails and phone calls in opposition to Cisneros’s appointment (District 8’s Diane Cibrian added that she’d received just as many petition signatures), and successfully moved to have the Cisneros appointment tabled until the Council can assess the state of the board.
District 2 Councilwoman Sheila McNeil went to great lengths to explain to a clearly wounded Cisneros that the Council’s concerns had little to do with his credentials, but with their worries about a board roundly faulted for its disorganization and loaded with members who’ve served since the mid-’90s. “We want to slow down the train,” McNeil said. “It’s nothing personal. But we don’t want to put you on a dysfunctional board.”
Dysfunctional? Maybe. But certainly more controversial as of late, thanks to its perceived role as a rubber-stamper of the new digital-billboard locations `see “Hang ’em high,”`, at least seven of which are located in Scenic Corridors.
In less contentious news, the Council approved the purchase of 50 new tasers (or Conductive Energy Devices, as they’re euphemistically called in the biz) for the SAPD. Police Chief William McManus pointed out that tasers were recommended as effective tools in a recent PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) use-of-force review of the department (the report actually suggested fairly tight parameters for the department’s taser deployment).
The Council also approved a Justin Rodriguez-led pilot program banning the use of handheld phones in 18 school zones, and authorized a City application for a Department of Energy solar-installation grant.
Bill Sinkin, SA’s 95-year-old business titan and solar advocate, spoke glowingly about solar energy’s potential in San Antonio. After giving the Council an eyeful of CPS’s cutesy, mock-romance ads in the Wall Street Journal (message: Hot South Texas agency wants to hook up with adventurous types), CPS rep Stephen Bailey said the City’s renewable-energy future hinged on big-production solar farms that CPS can buy energy from, and, in the sounds-good-but-we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it category, suggested that private investors will bring such a farm to SA within the next four or five years.
The Queque made light of it last week because we didn’t have a document in our hands, but thanks to the assistance of a digital-billboard activist in Phoenix, Arizona, where they’re litigating the location of eight electronic variable-message signs, the Current has a photocopy of a City of Phoenix employment record for Clear Channel Outdoor President Blake Custer. It’s more suitable for reading by one of those old electronic punch-card computers, but it seems to record that Custer worked as a Landscape Architect I from June of ’88 to spring of ’93, a time period that would overlap with the early Arizona career of SA City Manager Sheryl Sculley — Assistant City Manager of Phoenix for 16 years before coming to Alamo City in November 2005. If we sound a little mushy on the details, it’s because Sculley and Custer have declined multiple opportunities to call us back and elaborate on the subject (Possible replies: “Yes, so what?” “It’s a big government; I never saw the guy.” “Really?! What a small world!” “I’ve always thought highly of Blake and was delighted when I found out he’d be heading up Clear Channel’s efforts to bring the wonders of digital technology to San Antonio!”)
Custer, obviously, has gone on to a rewarding career with Clear Channel, and according to 2003 testimony before an Arizona Senate subcommittee, counts among his successes “shepherding” two electronic signs through Phoenix’s permit process. Which just makes it awkward that Sculley’s only response to a request to talk about the history of Clear Channel and digital billboards in Phoenix was one-sentence denials via the City PIO. City government tends to be a small world, even between companies, lobbyists, and staff; given that Custer attended the Infrastructure and Growth Committee meetings where SA’s digital-billboard pilot program was shaped, and according to Development Services Director Rod Sanchez, Clear Channel was involved both in public meetings and staff discussions shaping the ordinance, why not be forthright about their common history?
District 7 Councilman Justin Rodriguez, on the other hand, is this week’s Mr. Cellophane. You’ll find him quoted throughout the news section thanks to his willingness to speak to the press, even when his answer had to be, I don’t know, and as a member of City Council, I ought to. That’s always a good start.•
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