Push Long Awaited to Restore 116,000 Native American Remnants

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“When it comes to NAGPRA, the work is never done,” said John Stomberg, director of the Hood Museum.

A new policy The project, announced in March, is expected to help the University of California, Berkeley repatriate more than 9,500 Native American remains. Its collection is the largest in the country, according to the National Park Service, and has remained that way, according to university officials, because previous administrators delayed returns.

“Historically, UC Berkeley has seen turnaround and NAGPRA as a process at odds with the university’s research interests,” Thomas Torma, the school’s legal liaison officer, said via email. “As a result of these changes, we were able to transfer at least 297 people and 15,792 of their property back to the tribes last year.”

When the relics were returned, the tribes often held poignant reburial ceremonies. After the University of Michigan returned the remains of 94 Native Americans and 812 associated funerary objects to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in 2014, members stood in freezing temperatures at a cemetery established in 1995 as a place to re-bury their ancestors to commemorate the return.

“It’s an emotional state, not just a physical thing we experience with flashback,” said Tony Perry, who attended the ceremony. broadcasting “And it’s something deeply spiritual and emotional that comes from the heart.”

By clarifying timelines and closing loopholes in current regulations, the Biden administration hopes to hold not only museums to account, but also many government agencies with indigenous relics. documents from the federal register, Bureau of Indian Affairs, NS United States Navy and Army Corps of Engineers They continued to review their inventory accounts, increasing the number of human remains and funerary objects in their collections. called out by the State Accountability Office for not fully complying with the law more than a decade ago.

Critics of the current system argue that great progress is hard to spot no matter where you look.

“At the current rate, it will be another seventy years for all of the 116,000 human remains to be dealt with,” said Chip Colwell, former curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who manages the NAGPRA adaptation program, and later wrote in a letter. book about the fight back. “When leaders look at how much work needs to be done, there is a deep sense of frustration.”

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