UND provides first campus-wide repatriation update since Aug. 31 announcement
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
On Aug. 31, we made an announcement about the presence on UND’s campus of Indigenous skeletal remains – also known as ancestors – and sacred items. At that time, we offered our sincere apologies that these ancestors and items had not been repatriated under the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). We also stated the University’s deep commitment to seeing repatriation efforts through to their conclusion.
The news of our August announcement had a dramatic impact on our Indigenous students, faculty and staff members, as well as many who work closely with them. Many members of our campus are experiencing this pain, and it is important for each of us to understand this impact, as well as our obligation, under federal law, to ensure the ancestors and sacred items are respectfully returned to their tribal nations. The University and I have committed to make this happen. Please also accept my humble apologies for the decisions made by the University and its members that failed to show proper respect to the ancestors.
During the last two weeks, we have provided updates to the Indigenous peoples of the campus and alumni communities and to tribal representatives. Please allow me to share with you what we have shared with them. In August, we believed that the number of ancestors on campus to be in the dozens. Recall that an ancestor could be in the form of a bone fragment, a single bone, or even multiple bones. One purpose for making a public announcement was to raise awareness across campus so that more people would be cognizant of the need to keep their eyes open, as the repatriation team continues its work. Over the last six weeks, we have indeed found additional remains, among them at least one Indigenous ancestor in the care of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Additional Indigenous ancestors may be discovered within a collection of human skeletal remains that were used in the teaching of anatomy.
Our Repatriation Committee has been working closely with the School of Medicine & Health Sciences to bring all skeletal remains to our repatriation facility for examination by our consulting team of osteologists. We will ensure all ancestors, whether Indigenous or not, will be afforded the respect that they deserve. And we will continue to update our online repatriation pages with current information about our progress. You can find the information at our Repatriation website.
As we enter the month of November — Native American Heritage Month — this is an opportunity for us to come together as a campus community. We have campus members who are still processing this news. Let me urge each of you to keep looking out for one another, and to make sure we offer respect and dignity to those most deeply impacted. This is also a time to examine the holistic picture of how we support Indigenous peoples on campus through programming, support services, representation and actions that eliminate biases and barriers.
We have much work ahead of us, and the University remains committed to the repatriation of these Indigenous ancestors and the proper care and respect for the non-Indigenous remains. We also remain committed to providing periodic updates on our repatriation efforts to the campus community.
Andrew P. Armacost
University of North Dakota