Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Native American Rights Fund files amicus curiae brief on behalf of National Congress of American Indians in support of John Thorpe’s En Banc Petition

screenshot of first page of brief

As described in a previous post on the NARF blog, the Thorpe family and the Sac and Fox Nation filed suit to repatriate Jim Thorpe’s remains so that he could be buried in Oklahoma on tribal land, as was his wish.  The Thorpe family and Tribe obtained a ruling in federal district court that NAGPRA applies to the Borough of Jim Thorpe in Pennsylvania, where Thorpe’s remains are in a mausoleum. 

On October 23, 2014, a panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, that NAGPRA as written applies to the Borough, but that applying in this case would produce an absurd result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of Congress.  The panel was not exactly clear what it saw as “absurd” but also ruled that NAGPRA was only meant to apply to original burial locations or final resting places. 

This week, the Thorpes and Sac and Fox Nation filed a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc.  Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and NCAI also filed a brief in support of a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc.  The parties argued that the Third Circuit panel opinion wrongly interpreted NAGPRA and Congress’ intent, left out major procedural provisions of the statute, and created a judicial exception to its application.   

Read the briefs at the Turtle Talk blog.  Or,  read “Bringing Jim Thorpe Home,” an article on this issue co-written by NARF Executive Director John E. Echohawk and Suzan Shown Harjo.