AAIA Executive Director Shannon Keller O’Loughlin
Published July 12, 2019
WASHINGTON — President Trump has expressed his intent to remove Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the first and only American Indian representation on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee in the U.S. State Department and appoint Stefan C. Passatino in her place.
Mr. Passatino works as outside legal counsel for the Trump administration, formulating its responses to Congress’ various investigations. The House of Representatives Oversight Committee has been investigating Mr. Passatino for ethical misconduct relating to making false statements regarding Trump’s financial dealings with Michael Cohen.
He has no known experience in protecting cultural heritage resources.
O’Loughlin, executive director and attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs, was appointed by President Barack Obama. Ms. O’Loughlin has deep expertise regarding United States law that protects cultural heritage and has served on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee as well.
She is the only Committee member replaced during the Trump administration. Other members of the Committee have been serving over many administrations and yet continue to serve.
The Cultural Property Advisory Committee is a federal advisory committee administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, which advises the President on appropriate U.S. action in response to requests from foreign governments for assistance in protecting their cultural heritage. This Committee was established by the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, which implements Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In the committee’s 33-year existence, never had an American Indian been appointed to this position.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs has a significant budget that is used to protect other countries’ cultural heritage, but little to nothing towards protecting American Indian cultural heritage from being exported out of the United States or to help repatriate cultural heritage items back to tribal nations. The inclusion of an American Indian perspective on the Committee is imperative to make sure that agreements with other countries are truly mutual and advocate to protect American Indian cultural heritage.
Additionally, American Indian representation assures that the United States does not overstep its boundaries by asking other countries to do more than what the U.S. is willing to do to protect cultural heritage in the United States.