arizona’s broken arrow
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Arizona’s Broken Arrow
November, 2008, Page 134
On May 8, 2003, in a special Tribal Council meeting, the Havasupai Tribe approved a “Banishment Order” that barred ASU, its professors and employees from the reservation forever. The order was the first of its kind and states: “The Havasupai Tribe has demanded that ASU disclose to the Tribe all of its actions regarding Havasupai blood and stop all unauthorized experimentation on Havasupai blood, but ASU has failed to disclose to the Tribe any information about where ASU distributed the blood and the purposes for all research.”
Three days later, Martin sent an “urgent” memorandum to the highest officials at ASU, starting with Michael Crow. It is a devastating memo that warns the tribe has planned a news conference for May 14 to publicly make its charges that their blood was misused and transferred to other universities, all without their knowledge or consent. “I believe the charges to be true,” Martin added.
The two-page, single-spaced memo then lays out the history of the research project and the problems already known – information he warned would “seriously embarrass ASU.” (To read more about the desperate memo, scroll down to the end of this story.)
Martin begged Crow to pick up the phone and call the Tribal Chairman to personally settle this dispute, suggesting ASU’s apology and promise to return all the blood would satisfy the tribe and “could end this.”
It is not known what Crow said or did when he read the memo (Crow’s office did not return calls from
magazine for this story), but what happened next suggests he demanded immediate action. ASU was finally paying attention, and efforts were quick to stop a news conference that could have meant far-reaching damages to ASU’s hopes of becoming a major player in the world of genetic research.
Two days after Martin’s shocking memo and one day before the tribe’s planned press conference, the Havasupai Tribe received a fax from the university’s legal office saying it was prepared to fund “an external authority to investigate what had happened.” The tribe agreed to call off its news conference to wait for the results of the study. That’s when attorney Stephen Hart was hired to head the investigation. Along with private investigator Sobraske, he immediately set about interviewing those involved and gathering documents.
He gave a preliminary report on September 5, 2003, revealing that the tribe’s fears were justified. Three days later, the tribe sent a notice of claim to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, alerting the state that a lawsuit against one of its universities was coming. (This alert did not include the required dollar amount for such a notice. It was amended on March 5, 2004, by new tribal attorney Robert Rosette, specifying the tribe was seeking $50 million in damages.)
The final Hart Report was revealed in December 2003 in a face-to-face meeting in Flagstaff with ASU and tribal officials. Carletta remembers that Hart spent 45 minutes summarizing what he found, “and as the story gets worse and worse and worse, the Havasupai in the room are weeping,” she remembers. “A couple of the ASU officials were crying, too.”
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