The Martinez de Vara Law Firm is pleased to announce that after a lengthy process, the U.S. Department of the Interior has approved a plan by the Witte Museum and Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation to reinter Aboriginal individuals in their ancestral lands in West Texas. The Martinez de Vara Law Firm represents the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation as its Tribal Counsel. Representatives from the Witte Museum, Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation and Art Martinez de Vara of the Martinez de Vara Law Firm spoke before the Department’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Review Committee in Bloomington, Indiana on June 8, 2023. The committee unanimously agreed with the request, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland subsequently concurred with the Review Committee’s recommendation and gave the Witte permission to proceed with the reinternment.
“The Witte Museum has long researched and documented the evidence of the first people of what we now call Texas,” said Marise McDermott, President and CEO. “As much as it is a privilege to share the lifeways of these extraordinary people with the children and families who come to the Witte Museum, we know that this information comes with a cost that must be repaid.”
The Witte Museum has been actively working with the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation during the NAGPRA reinternment request process. Tāp Pīlam representatives were in attendance at the presentation to the Review Committee and expressed their support and appreciation to the Committee.
“I would like to thank the Witte Museum for the mutual commitment with the Tāp Pīlam Tribal Community in working for the promotion, preservation and education of Texas Indigenous first people’s historical and cultural sacred sites,” said Raymond Hernandez, Tāp Pīlam Nation Tribal Council Member. “Honoring those who contributed, lived, fought and died will result in the proper respect for human remains and preservation of their final resting place with an acknowledgment of their contributions to the State of Texas for all future generations.”
The Witte Museum has been in consultation since the 1990s with the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation as well as numerous Native American tribes that arrived in Texas historically. In 2013, NAGPRA issued an amendment that addressed Aboriginal people and those that are culturally, geographically and temporarily connected. This amendment has enabled the museum to move forward with the long-planned reinternment. The Martinez de Vara Law Firm represents the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation as its Tribal Counsel.
About the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation
Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation is a tribal community descended from the Mission Indians of the Spanish Colonial Missions of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico. https://www.tappilam.org
About the Witte Museum
Founded in 1926, the Witte Museum is where Science, Nature and Culture Meet. Located on the banks of the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park, the Witte Museum is San Antonio’s premier museum, inspiring people to shape the future of Texas through transformative and relevant experiences in nature, science and culture. https://www.wittemuseum.org