Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 27, 2023

Phoenix: Heard Museum Harboring O'otham and O'odham Remains

While promoting itself as the premiere showcase of American Indian Art, the Heard Museum in Phoenix has harbored the remains of Native ancestors, and one of its board members has worked for the most protested companies in Indian country, violating human rights and sacred places

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
January 27, 2023
Spanish translation by Lise Bouzidi
Translation French Christine Prat

PHOENIX -- The Heard Museum, promoted as a premiere showcase of American Indian Art, harbored remains of Native People, including local O'otham and O'odham, nearby Hopi, and ancestors from as far away as Oklahoma.

The Heard Museum has not made thirteen of the ancestors available for return. Only 46 percent of the 200 funeral objects that the Heard has are available for return to the tribes, according to new data released by ProPublica and NBC News.

Meanwhile, one of Heard's board members has spent his life working for the most protested energy companies in Indian country. These corporations were responsible for the widespread devastation of sacred places and the water, and human rights violations resulting in relocation and misery.

Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham elder who has spent her life fighting for human rights, said at the root is racism and morbid pride. It is all about the money.

"The Heard is like all of them, Smithsonian and the universities, sill distorting and trying to justify their selves for their racism and superiority as the white race that violated human rights ethics to make their money," Rivas said.

"American and international collectors have a morbid pride in their exhibits of human remains and sacred items. They will never conquer the sacred essence of these people and items."

The Heard Museum harbored these remains of the ancestors. These ancestors have been made available for return to 19 Native Nations.

Institutions often make remains available for return to multiple tribes, so the number of remains listed below may be counted for more than one tribe.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community of the Salt River Reservation, Arizona 30
Ak-Chin Indian Community 27
Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona 27
Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona 27
Hopi Tribe of Arizona 8
Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation, New Mexico 7
Havasupai Tribe of the Havasupai Reservation, Arizona 3
Hualapai Indian Tribe of the Hualapai Indian Reservation, Arizona 3
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma 2
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Arizona 2
Yavapai-Apache Nation of the Camp Verde Indian Reservation, Arizona 2
Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe 2
Cocopah Tribe of Arizona 1
Colorado River Indian Tribes of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Arizona and California 1
Fort Mojave Indian Tribe of Arizona, California and Nevada 1
Miami Tribe of Oklahoma 1
Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico 1
Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico 1
Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, California and Arizona 1

Heard board member worked for the most protested energy companies in Indian country

Heard Museum's board members include Greg Boyce, who spent his life working for many of the most protested companies in Indian country, including Peabody Coal, Rio Tinto Energy, Newmont Mining, and Monsanto.

Peabody Coal's coal mines on Black Mesa resulted in decades of misery and relocation for Dine', devastated sacred places and depleted the aquifer and poisoned the streams. Now, Rio Tinto now is targeting the Apache ceremonial site at Oak Flat with copper mining. Rio Tinto released its own report on the high rate of sexual assaults at its mines in Australia and South Africa.

Newmont Mining has devastated Western Shoshone's water and sacred places.  Newmont was protested by Indigenous in Peru, Ghana, Indonesia and Australia for mining pollution and devastation.

Monsanto is the producer of genetically modified seeds, devastating to traditional ancestral crops. The March Against Monsanto was carried out in 52 countries.

The University of Arizona Foundation in Tucson, while accepting a $2.5 million donation from Boyce, praised his mining career, and posted the announcement shown below.

Morenci copper mine in Arizona is located near Oak Flat. Oak Flat, Apaches' Ceremonial Place, is now targeted with a copper mine by Rio Tinto.

The University of Arizona Foundation praised Boyce and Arizona's widespread copper mining, without pointing out the widespread devastation to the land and water. "Today, Arizona produces three-quarters of the nation's copper and is the sixth-largest copper producer in the world."

Huge salaries for Heard's top board members

The top three executives at Heard Museum receive a total of more than a half million dollars in salaries, with its CEO receiving an annual salary of more than $264,000. Another $2.9 million was paid in other salaries. Its total revenue in 2020 was almost $10 million.

Although the Heard Museum has been harboring the human remains of the ancestors and continues to harbor more than half of its Native funeral items, it claims to honor and acknowledge the land of O'otham.

Heard Museum Land Acknowledgement Statement

"The Heard Museum acknowledges that the land this institution has stood upon since 1929 is within the O’otham Jeved, which the Akimel O’otham have regarded as their homeland since time immemorial. Despite the land’s annexation into New Spain, the Mexican Republic, and the United States, which assumed control after the 1854 Gadsden Purchase, the Akimel O’otham have consistently asserted that this land is theirs, as recounted in their Creation Story, in which Jeved Ma:kai, Earth Doctor, made this place. Today the Akimel O’otham are part of the Four Southern Tribes of Arizona, which is a coalition comprised of the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community, and the Tohono O’odham Nation."

Thousands of ancestors' remains of O'otham and O'odham have been concealed in Arizona museums, universities and buildings of the U.S. government. 

The University of Arizona's museum in Tucson and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior concealed the most remains from the Gila River Indian Community, south of Phoenix.

Thousands of O'otham Ancestors were Concealed


The University of Arizona in Tucson tops the list of those not making remains available for return in Arizona. The Eastern Arizona College Foundation in Thatcher has made no remains available for return. It has 32 Native ancestors' remains.
For the complete list go to


Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

NAGPRA established criminal penalties for those who sell, use or transport Native remains.

Since 1990, Federal law has provided for the repatriation and disposition of certain Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. By enacting NAGPRA, Congress recognized that human remains of any ancestry "must at all times be treated with dignity and respect." Congress also acknowledged that human remains and other cultural items removed from Federal or tribal lands belong, in the first instance, to lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

NAGPRA establishes penalties for both criminal and civil violations.

Criminal Provisions A person who knowingly commits any of the following may be punished by imprisonment, a fine, or both: 1. Sells, purchases, uses for profit, or transports for sale or profit the human remains of a Native American. 2. Sells, purchases, uses for profit, or transports for sale or profit any Native American cultural item obtained in violation of NAGPRA.




Promocionado como el primer escaparate del arte nativo americano, el Museo Heard albergaba los restos de antepasados nativos. Uno de los miembros de su junta directiva ha trabajado para algunas de las empresas más acosadas del país indio, por violar los derechos humanos y los lugares sagrados.


Por Brenda Norrell

Noticias Censuradas

27 de enero de 2023


PHOENIX, Arizona – El Museo Heard, promocionado como el primer escaparate del arte nativo americano, albergaba restos de nativos americanos, incluidos los O'Odham locales, los vecinos Hopi y antepasados de lugares tan lejanos como Oklahoma.


Sólo el 46% de los 200 objetos funerarios propiedad de los Heard están a disposición de las tribus para su devolución, según los nuevos datos publicados por Pro Publica y NBC News.


Además, uno de los miembros de la junta directiva de Heard se ha pasado la vida trabajando para las empresas energéticas más asediadas del País Indio. Estas empresas son responsables de innumerables daños a lugares sagrados y al agua, y de violaciones de derechos humanos derivadas de desplazamientos forzosos y miseria.


Ofelia Rivas, una anciana Tohono O'Odham que se ha pasado la vida luchando por los derechos humanos, afirma que en la raíz está el racismo y el orgullo morboso. Pero siempre se trata de dinero.


"Heard Museo es como todos los demás, los Smithonianos y las universidades, que siempre distorsionan la realidad e intentan justificar su racismo y su superioridad blanca, que viola la ética de los derechos humanos, para ganar dinero", dice Ofelia Rivas.


"Los coleccionistas estadounidenses e internacionales se enorgullecen morbosamente de exhibir restos humanos y objetos sagrados. Nunca podrán conquistar la esencia sagrada de estas personas y objetos".


El Museo Heard albergaba restos de antepasados. Los restos de estos antepasados se pusieron a disposición de 19 naciones aborígenes.


Comunidad Indígena Pima-Maricopa de la Reserva del Río Salado, Arizona; Comunidad Indígena Ak-Chin; Comunidad Indígena del Río Gila, Arizona; Nación Tohono O'odham, Arizona; Tribu Hopi de Arizona; Tribu Zuni de la Reserva Zuni, Nuevo México; Tribu Havasupai de la Reserva Havasupai, Arizona; Tribu India Hualapai de la Reserva India Hualapai, Arizona; Tribus Cheyenne y Arapaho, Oklahoma; Nación Yavapai de Fort McDowell, Arizona; Nación Yavapai-Apache de la Reserva India de Camp Verde, Arizona; Tribu India Yavapai-Prescott; Tribu Cocopah de Arizona; Tribus Indias del Río Colorado de la Reserva India del Río Colorado, Arizona y California; Fort Mojave Indian Tribe de Arizona, California y Nevada; Miami Tribe de Oklahoma; Acoma Pueblos, Nuevo México; Laguna Pueblos, Nuevo México; Quechan Tribe de la reserva india de Fort Yuma, California y Arizona.


Un miembro de la junta directiva de Heard, ha trabajado para algunas de las empresas energéticas más conflictivas del país indio


Entre los miembros de la junta directiva de Heard, se encuentra Greg Boyce, que ha pasado su vida trabajando para muchas de las empresas más conflictivas del país indio, como Peabody Coal, Rio Tinto Energy, Newmont Mining y Monsanto.


Las minas de carbón de Peabody Coal han causado décadas de penurias y desplazamientos forzosos a los Diné [Navajos], han devastado lugares sagrados, agotado la capa freática y envenenado los ríos. Ahora Rio Tinto pretende explotar el yacimiento ceremonial Apache de Oak Flat para extraer cobre. Rio Tinto ha publicado su propio informe sobre el alto índice de agresiones sexuales en los alrededores de sus minas en Australia y Sudáfrica.


Newmont Mining ha devastado el agua y los lugares sagrados de los shoshone occidentales. Newmont ha provocado protestas indígenas en Perú, Ghana, Indonesia y Australia a causa de la contaminación y los daños.


Monsanto es el productor de semillas modificadas genéticamente que han devastado los cultivos tradicionales.


La Fundación de la Universidad de Arizona en Tucson ha aceptado 2,5 millones de dólares en donaciones de Boyce y elogia su carrera y la minería de cobre a gran escala en Arizona, por no hablar de la destrucción a gran escala de la tierra y el agua. "En la actualidad, Arizona produce las tres cuartas partes del cobre del país y es el sexto mayor productor de cobre del mundo”.


Enormes sueldos para los principales miembros del consejo de Heard Museum


Los tres principales ejecutivos del Museo Heard recibieron más de medio millón de dólares en sueldos, y el director general recibió un sueldo anual de más de 264.000 dólares. Además, se pagaron 2,9 millones de euros en otros sueldos. Sin embargo, el Museo Heard afirma honrar y reconocer el territorio Akimel O'Odham.


"El Museo Heard reconoce que la tierra en la que se asienta esta institución desde 1929 está dentro del Jeved O'Odham, que los Akimel O'Odham consideran su patria desde tiempos inmemoriales. A pesar de la anexión del territorio por parte de Nueva España, la República de México y Estados Unidos, que asumió el control desde la Compra de Gadsden de 1854, los Akimel O'Odham siempre han mantenido que esta tierra es suya, como se cuenta en su Historia de la Creación, donde Jeved Ma: Kai, el Doctor Tierra, hizo este lugar. En la actualidad, los Akimel O'Odham forman parte de las Cuatro Tribus del Sur de Arizona, una coalición que incluye a la Comunidad Indígena del Río Gila, la Comunidad Indígena Pima-Maricopa de Salt Rio, la Comunidad Ak-Chin y la Nación Tohono O'Odham.


Miles de restos ancestrales 0'0dham han sido ocultados en museos, universidades y edificios gubernamentales de Arizona. El Museo de la Universidad de Arizona, en Tucson, y los Departamentos de Agricultura e Interior de Estados Unidos han ocultado la mayoría de las reliquias de la comunidad indígena del río Gila, al sur de Phœnix.


Ley de Protección y Repatriación de Tumbas de Nativos Americanos


La Ley de Protección y Repatriación de Tumbas de Nativos Americanos - NAGPRA - de 1990, estableció penas para quienes vendan, utilicen o transporten restos humanos de nativos americanos.




La Ley - NAGPRA - establece sanciones por infracciones tanto penales como civiles.


Disposiciones penales: Una persona que cometa a sabiendas cualquiera de los siguientes delitos podría ser castigada con penas de prisión, multa o ambas: 1. Venta, compra, uso con fines lucrativos o transporte con fines lucrativos o de venta de los restos humanos de una persona aborigen. 2. Venta, compra, uso con fines lucrativos o transporte con fines lucrativos o de venta de cualquier objeto cultural aborigen obtenido en violación de la NAGPRA.

About the author

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter for 40 years, beginning at the Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a correspondent for Lakota Times, Associated Press and USA Today. After serving as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today covering the west, she was censored and terminated. She began Censored News in 2006, now in its 17th year with no ads, salaries or revenues. She has a master's degree in international health.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. May not be republished without written permission.

No comments: