UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND hires NAGPRA compliance liaison for repatriation effort

Mary Baker will work from the UND Office of the President with University tribal partners 

Mary Baker
Mary Baker is assisting UND in complying with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) during the University’s ongoing repatriation efforts. She also serves as a primary point of contact with UND’s tribal partners. Photo by Marcella Hatten/Niibing Giizis (Summer Moon).

The University of North Dakota has hired Mary Baker as its Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) compliance liaison to assist with the University’s ongoing repatriation efforts.

Baker comes to UND from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Tribal Historic Preservation Office in New Town, N.D. Since September 2019, she has worked for the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation as the NAGPRA officer and cultural resources project manager.

“I am humbled to be able to be of service to our ancestors,” Baker said. “Repatriation work is a duty that should never be taken lightly. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help the relatives return to a place of rest. I hope to gain and absorb as much as I possibly can with this experience.”

NAGPRA, passed by the United States Congress in 1990, provides for the “repatriation of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony” removed from federal or tribal lands. The act recognizes that ancestral remains must be treated with dignity and respect.

Baker will work from the UND Office of the President and will function as a program manager on the University’s compliance with NAGPRA law, also serving as a primary point of contact for tribal partners.

“We are extremely honored that Mary will be joining our team,” said Laine Lyons, member of UND’s Repatriation Committee and the director of development for the College of Arts & Sciences with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

“She has been one of the tribal representatives that has been advising us over the past year,” Lyons continued. “She is a compassionate person who is respectful of diverse viewpoints, beliefs and practices. She understands the significance of this work and the responsibility placed on everyone involved. We are grateful for her.”

In August last year, UND President Andrew Armacost announced the discovery of ancestral remains and cultural artifacts on campus that, under federal law, must be returned to their appropriate tribal homes. Prior to that, the University created a repatriation committee and conducted outreach to tribal officials inside and outside North Dakota.

After the public announcement, the University developed a repatriation website, contracted with a Native American-owned management firm and has continued to provide regular updates to tribal representatives and UND’s Indigenous community.

“Getting this important position filled and bringing a person onboard with Mary’s valuable knowledge and experience helps to assure that UND will continue making progress toward returning the ancestors and artifacts currently in its possession,” Armacost said.

“From the beginning, we have stressed the importance of working in partnership with all our tribal communities and their tribal historic preservation officers to communicate and coordinate our repatriation efforts,” he continued. “Mary will play a vital role in maintaining the transparency needed for successful repatriation.”

Baker said she plans to implement cultural protocols in her position at UND.

“The survivors of these ancestors can take comfort in knowing that a tribal member will be taking on this role, ensuring their return by working collaboratively with other tribes,” she said.