TESTIMONY OF MARY MARGARET OVERBEY, Ph.D.
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
ON BEHALF OF THE
 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION
 SUBMITTED TO THE
 APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES
 US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 FISCAL YEAR 2004
 IN SUPPORT OF THE
 NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES

 April 2, 2003

    Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony to support an appropriation of $152 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in FY 2004.  We thank you for the increased funding you have provided to NEH in recent years and we ask you to continue to strengthen that support in the future.

    By way of background, the AAA is the world?s largest professional association of anthropologists.  Founded in 1902, the purposes of the AAA are to advance anthropology as the discipline that studies humankind in all its aspects, to further the professional interests of anthropologists, and to disseminate anthropological knowledge to address human problems.  The AAA represents more than 11,000 archaeologists, social and cultural anthropologists, physical and biological anthropologists, and linguistic anthropologists.

    We support President Bush?s request for $152 million for NEH in FY 2004.  We urge you to fund the NEH at this level.  We appreciate the President?s recognition of the importance of NEH in proposing a 22% increase in funding for the Nation?s single largest source of funding for humanities programs.  The President?s request increases NEH funding by $26 million, with $25 million of that dedicated to the initiative We the People aimed at improving the teaching of American history, civics and service to strengthen democracy.  The rationale behind this initiative is supported by findings that many Americans lack an understanding of American history, often failing to recognize the timeframes in which important historic events occurred.

    We support We the People as a broadly-conceived initiative to enhance Americans knowledge of American history.  This includes an inclusive history of America from its early inhabitancy by Native Americans and the first explorations and settlements by Europeans to current global relations and influences affecting American history.  We the People will inspire a wide range of projects that will advance Americans knowledge of our Nation?s history as a whole.

    Our support for an increased appropriation of $152 million for NEH in FY 2004 is based on the belief that the American people benefit from the knowledge generated by NEH-supported research and projects.  We believe that NEH provides an important and unique role in enhancing our understanding of our Nation?s culture and cultures around the world.  Who we are, where we came from, what unites us as a Nation, and what unites us as a worldwide community?  These are but a few of the questions that projects funded by NEH help us to answer.  We believe that NEH, because of its commitment to serving this role, is a priority federal program that should be maintained in the future.

    Investing in NEH is a win-win situation.  NEH supports programs to better understand the history of humanity, to better educate and interpret new findings to the public through museum exhibitions, television programs, and conferences, and to expand the knowledge and improve teaching skills of high school and college educators.  NEH funding also preserves and provides better access to important, yet disintegrating documents, enables institutions to develop and strengthen programs and resources, and assists state humanities councils in fifty states to support local education and outreach projects.

Furthermore, a federal investment in NEH usually results in an equal or greater investment by the private sector.  Some NEH grants require a match for each federal dollar and projects funded often generate private sector support beyond the initial match required.  Other NEH grants provide the necessary seed funding for and lend a legitimacy to projects that attract additional funding and support.

    Increasing NEH funding to $152 million in FY 2004 would be a step to regaining lost ground in the quest for knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge to the Nation.  Since FY 1995, NEH experienced a sharp drop in funding that affected NEH?s ability to support significant research and other notable humanities projects.  With increased funding since then, NEH has been rebuilding its capacity to support projects and programs in the humanities.  We ask the Subcommittee to assist in that rebuilding process by providing the additional funds to do so.

    NEH funds many beneficial activities that we take for granted and the reach of NEH support is broad, enhancing scholarly research, the development of public programs, and the training of teachers just to name a few.  For example, much of the historic archaeological research in the US and abroad is supported by NEH.  Particularly significant are the studies focused on the origins of civilizations in the Near East and the Americas. Every day, new interpretations of how civilizations arose or declined result, at least in part, from NEH funding.  Importantly, the translation of these findings often makes its way to the American public through other NEH-funded projects.  For example, many of the museum exhibits that interpret this knowledge for the public are funded by NEH.  Teacher training focuses on educating K-12 teachers and college professors to ensure that the knowledge they impart to students in the classroom remains current and fresh.

    We want to highlight two anthropological and archaeological projects supported by NEH to illustrate the significant contributions that result from a federal investment in NEH.

    1.  NEH provided funding for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, archaeological research focused on determining the site of the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States.  NEH funding enabled archaeologist William Kelso (Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) to locate the original 1607 Virginia settlement and fort. Scholars had long believed the fort to be lost in the James River, but Kelso's work demonstrated conclusively that this valuable early American settlement remained intact on shore.

    Since its discovery, Kelso and colleagues have been excavating the site to reconstruct this early and important phase of American history. Their findings have been reshaping our knowledge of our Nation?s founding and how the early settlers lived.  In addition to the hundreds of thousands of 17th century artifacts that have been found, Kelso and colleagues have determined the outline of James Fort, unearthed burials of early Jamestown residents, and uncovered Jamestown?s last Statehouse.

    The project continues to make exciting discoveries.  The latest find, in February 2003, is what Kelso believes to be the grave of Jamestown?s founder and designer of the Fort, Bartholomew Gosnold.  Gosnold died a few months after Jamestown was established, and historic records indicate that he was buried with ceremony.  The early burial site that Kelso and colleagues unearthed included the remains of an individual who was buried with what Kelso believes to be a flag staff and flag draped over the coffin. DNA testing of a known living relative of Gosnold and the human remains at Jamestown will be done to confirm if the remains are indeed those of Gosnold.  Gosnold?s ancestors married into the Windsors, the Royal Family of England.  This current find has generated a good deal of media attention, including stories in the London Telegraph, the Washington Post, and on the BBC among others.

    The Jamestown Rediscovery project represents an exemplary success story.  NEH funding served as seed money to get the research going.  NEH support and the discovery of Jamestown attracted funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, private foundations and individuals and generated public interest that far exceeded expectations.  Kelso?s work continues at Jamestown in preparation for celebrating the 400th anniversary of the settlement in 2007.  The discovery of Jamestown and continuing excavations attract public attention and public programming (films, etc.) that features archaeological work at the site.  Many school children and others visit the site each day.

    2.  NEH has provided funding to determine the historical ties of four different Native American tribes to the San Pedro River Valley of southeastern Arizona.  The Center for Desert Archaeology received funding to undertake ethnohistoric research among the Tohono O?odham Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni and a consortium of Western Apache tribes under the lead of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.  Since 1990, the San Pedro River Valley has been the focus of a long-term Center for Desert Archaeology research and preservation program.  The Center has documented more than 500 archaeological sites in the San Pedro Valley and the NEH-funded project will enable Center archaeologists and the tribes to interpret the archaeology and history of the area.

    T.J. Ferguson is principal investigator of the project that involves in-depth interviews with tribal members to take down oral histories and determine how the San Pedro Valley fits into each tribe?s history and traditional use of the area.  Ferguson and colleagues are working with each tribe independently, each tribe will review the work, and the tribes will share their histories with each other.

    Importantly, this is a collaborative project that has involved the four tribes in the project from its inception to its development as a proposal to the conduct of the research to the release and use of the research findings.  Tribal members participate in the project in various ways.  Each tribe has appointed tribal researchers to help conduct the interviews and tribal cultural advisors to advise the project.  The tribes will receive copies of the field notes and photographs taken during the research. In addition, the tribes will receive a publication that synthesizes these multiple histories of the San Pedro Valley.  The Center for Desert Archaeology will produce a special edition of its quarterly publication Archaeology Southwest, written for the public, that summarizes the outcomes of the project.

     Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, these are but two examples of the outstanding scholarship and public benefits that result from a federal investment in the NEH.  We believe that NEH plays a unique and valuable role in promoting the progress and scholarship in the humanities and the dissemination of that knowledge to the public. We urge you to increase the funding for NEH to $152 million in FY 2004 and to support the rebuilding of NEH as the Nation?s premier granting agency for the humanities.  To do so will benefit the advancement of scholarship, the American people, and the Nation. 

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