Darlene Miller, running to become the first woman president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, is one of only seven members of the national Repatriation Review Committee of the Smithsonian Institution.
She is the first Seneca Nation member named to the prestigious committee since its formation in 1990. She just started serving a four-year term until 2018.
The committee monitors and reviews the inventory, identification, and return of human remains and funerary objects. The committee’s responsibilities also include reviewing sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
“I am honored to be the first Seneca representing the Nation on this important national Smithsonian committee. We will help maintain our national Native culture and recover and properly return to their proper place any artifacts that are not with their original owners,” Miller said.
The National Museum of the American Indian Act formed the committee, whose members are appointed from nominations submitted by federally recognized Native American tribes, and Native American, anthropological, and museum organizations. Two review committee members are required by law to be traditional Indian religious leaders and Miller, a Tribal Spiritual Leader, is one of those.
The advisory committee’s purpose is to ensure that fair and objective consideration and assessment of all relevant evidence of inventory and identification of remains, has been made by the Smithsonian Institution.
At the request of any affected party, the committee may review findings relating to the origin or the return of human remains and cultural objects. The committee may also assist the secretary of the Smithsonian in facilitating resolution of any dispute that may arise with respect to the return of such remains or objects.
Thus, if any Native American group or Native Hawaiian organization finds that a decision of the Smithsonian regarding a specific request is unacceptable, the group or organization may request that the committee review the matter and make an independent recommendation to the secretary of the Smithsonian.
The committee meets at least twice annually to monitor and review the progress of the repatriation process at the Smithsonian. It may meet on other occasions to consider specific issues. Miller plans to attend her next meeting in November.
The current members with Miller are: Jane Buikstra, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona; Walter Lara, Yurok Tribe, Hoopa, California; Bonnie Newsom (chair), Penobscot Indian Nation, Eddington, Maine; Tim Perttula, Archeological & Environmental Consultants, Austin, Texas; Ian Thompson, Historic Preservation Department, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Shelby Tisdale (vice-chair), vice president of curatorial and exhibitions, Autry National Center of the American West, Los Angeles, California.
Miller announced her candidacy as a member of the One Nation Party August 25. If elected, she’d become the first woman president of the Seneca Nation, which is a matrilineal society and she would take office in the 50th anniversary year of the Nation’s women winning the right to vote.
Miller opened the One Nation Party’s headquarters at 588 Broad St., Salamanca, September 4 and traffic to the office has been busy.
She noted that the current president won election in 2012 with only about one-third of the vote and she’s seeking to unify the Nation’s 8,000 members.
Miller, 66, said she is motivated to run because “the Nation is divided and we need to unify and get back to our traditional ways and values.”
The pillars of Miller’s campaign are: putting people before politics; promoting healthy minds and bodies; ensuring quality education for all Senecas; creating and maintaining healthy workplaces; enhancing Seneca Nation law enforcement; expanding economic development to reach all Senecas; encouraging and promoting Native language and culture and fighting the scourge of addictions among all Senecas.
In addition, Miller has served as vice president of the Allegany Territory’s Six Nations Agricultural Committee and is a 2014 recipient of the national Enduring Spirit Award. She was honored for lifetime achievement and commitment to building a positive future for all Native people.