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Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Lakeview Center.

Contact: Ted DeAdwyler
Merrik Bush-Pirkle
phone: (415) 338-1665; e-mail:

Chemical Contamination of American Indian Artifacts

S.F. State conference on repatriated museum artifacts to address growing health crisis and the politics of contaminated items

Scientific results of artifact testing to be announced on Friday

WHAT: More than 100 California Indian tribal leaders, museum officials, scientists and public policy representatives will gather at San Francisco State University for one of the country's first workshops on the chemical contamination of American Indian artifacts being returned to tribes under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

WHEN AND WHERE: Friday, Sept. 29, and Saturday, Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days and Sunday, October 1, from 9 a.m. to noon at San Francisco State University's Seven Hills Conference Center, 1600 Holloway Ave.

WHO WILL ATTEND: Representatives from various Indian tribes such as the Hoopa, San Manuel, Yurok, Miwok, Shoshone and Hopi as well as the California Native American Heritage Commission. Museum officials from the Alaska State Museum, the Canadian Conservation Institute, George Washington University, the Oakland Museum, the Arizona State Museum, and others. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Poison Control and other groups.

WHY: The three-day conference comes as increasing numbers of museum artifacts contaminated with toxins such as mercury and DDT are being returned to tribe. Museums and Indians nationwide face the dilemma of how to handle tribal materials found to have been treated with hazardous chemicals, including various pesticides and toxins designed to help preserve the precious items and kill insects, rodents and mold. At this time there is no known way to remove the poisons, but there are methods to test for their presence.


Friday --- 9 a.m. --- Sessions include results of scientific testing by S.F. State chemists on repatriated California NAGPRA materials at 1 p.m.

Saturday --- 9 a.m. --- Larry Myers, executive secretary of the California Native American Heritage Commission and Deron Marquez, chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, lead discussions on the health and policy implications of the chemical contamination of repatriated materials. Sunday --- 9 a.m. --- Working session on policy recommendations. Conference ends at noon that day. more


9:30 a.m. - Background on the sources of chemical contamination of ethnographic materials in museum collections. Catharine Hawkes, adjunct professor at George Washington University.

10 a.m. - Dealing with the problem in the Southwest. A report on testing at Arizona State Museum. Nancy Odegarrd, head conservator at the Arizona State Museum.

10:45 a.m. - The Hopi Tribe's experience with chemical contamination of repatriated materials. Leigh Kuwaniwisiwma, director of cultural office of Hopi Tribe.

1 p.m. - S.F. State's Artifact Testing Lab releases test results on chemical contamination of repatriated California NAGPRA materials. Peter Palmer, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at S.F. State; Niccolo Caldararo of the Conservation Art Service in San Francisco; and David Hostler of the Hoopa Tribal Museum.

1:45 p.m. - Health risks to humans from contact with chemically treated materials. Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist.

2:15 p.m. - Risk assessment for acute and chronic health effects from chemically contaminated materials. Tom Kearney, director of the San Francisco Division of the California Poison Control System.

2:45 p.m. - Public health issues and implementing the NAGPRA law. Enrique Manzanilla of the Environmental Protection Agency.


9:15 -The Hoopa Tribal Museum's experience with chemical contamination of repatriated materials. David Hostler, Shawn Kane and Duane Sherman, all of the Hoopa Tribe; and Lee Davis, director of S.F. State's California Studies Program.

9:45 a.m. - Sampling technique for testing of pesticides on artifacts. Niccolo Caldararo of the Conservation Art Service, Hostler, Kane, Davis and Palmer.

10:30 a.m. - Reliability in Testing: Experiments at Canadian Museums. Jane Sirois, conservation scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute.

11 a.m. - Open discussion with Deron Marquez, chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians; and Larry Myers, executive secretary of the California Native American Heritage Commission.

1 p.m. - Epidemiological studies on pesticide contamination of artifacts. David Goldsmith of the George Washington University School of Public Health.

1:30 p.m. - Removal of pesticides from artifacts: Is it possible? John Asmus of the University of California San Diego's Institute for Pure and Applied Physical Science.


9 a.m.- noon - Discussion by conference participants of policy recommendations regarding chemical contamination of repatriated materials. All sessions will be held in the Seven Hills Conference Center on campus.

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by Office of Public Affairs