On September 11, 2020, Secretary David L. Bernhardt was joined by President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. In an op-ed originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
, Secretary Bernhardt had this to say about remembering Flight 93 and the heroes of 9/11:
"This Patriot Day, I encourage all Americans to honor the memories of the nearly 3,000 precious lives we lost on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as every hero who has given his or her life since that day to protect our safety and our freedom. As a nation, we must remain forever grateful to the heroic men and women who serve as our first responders and charged into a raging inferno in New York or at the Pentagon. We must recognize and appreciate the great members of our armed forces who fought in defense of our country in the aftermath of the largest terrorist attack on American soil.
In addition, we should pause for a moment and recognize the reality that our great nation's history is filled with ordinary individuals who have chosen to do extraordinary things — whether on the homefront or the front-lines — in our country's moment of need. For unequivocal support of this fact, you need look no further than an ordinary field, which now stands on the hallowed grounds in Pennsylvania where so many good men and women gave their hearts, strength and lives."
Read the full op-ed HERE
On September 17, 2020, Secretary Bernhardt, Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs Tara Katuk Sweeney, and other officials joined President Trump in the Oval Office to recognize the cultural and ancestral importance of the safe return of American Indian ancestral remains and funerary objects taken over a century ago from what is now Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Last year
, President Trump and President Niinistӧ of Finland finalized an agreement to safely return these items to the Mesa Verde region.
Since 2016, the U.S. government, led by the U.S. Department of State, with support from Mesa Verde National Park and others at the Department of the Interior, has supported the associated Tribes in their request to repatriate certain items from the Nordenskiold collection identified as ancestral remains, and cultural items such as funerary objects as defined under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
Under NAGPRA, Federal law requires that U.S. museums and Federal agencies transfer human remains and funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, Indian Tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations that have requested them. NAGPRA's requirements position the United States as a global leader in honoring indigenous peoples' rights for repatriation of cultural heritage and ancestral remains under U.S. law.