As one of California's most influential tribal leaders, Mark Macarro has been included among Capitol Weekly's list of the top 100 most powerful voices in California politics. For over 15 years, he has served as tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. As part of his activities supporting tribal communities, Mark Macarro recently spoke out against the reluctance of UC Berkeley and other academic institutions to return Native American remains and artifacts back to their respective tribes.
For nearly three decades, US law has required federally funded museums to share lists of the Native American remains and artifacts they have in their collections with the respective tribes. The law also gives tribal communities that are able to prove a connection to the remains and artifacts the right to repossess them so that they can be reburied with dignity on ancestral tribal land. In California, the federal law has been extended to state-funded institutions, such as colleges and universities.
Despite the extension of the law, some museums at California's academic institutions have been reluctant to return archaeological remains back to local tribes. One of the most notable examples is the Phoebe Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley, which has returned fewer than 300 out of the more than 9,000 bodies it holds in its collection.
Officials at Berkeley and other UC campuses have defended the slow rate of repatriation by citing the research value of the remains and claiming that further investigation is needed. Local tribal leaders see the situation quite differently, however. Native American representatives continue to fight for repatriation, which may see further support through recently passed California legislation that aims to give tribal communities equal representation on campus committees.
Mark Macarro has been the Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians for 14 years.