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University of Kansas Returning Indigenous Ancestral Remains

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The University of Kansas (KU) has apologized to the Native American community and has begun repatriation efforts after indigenous sacred objects were found in its museum collection.

Funeral items, other religious artifacts, and “culturally unidentified individual remains” were discovered at Spooner Hall and Lippincott Hall Annex on the Lawrence campus, according to a university statement published online.

“The university has a responsibility to tribal nations and the Native American community to continue a relationship built on dignity, respect and enduring support,” a spokesperson from KU said.

Questions on the number of artifacts, their precise location, discovery details, and the tribes to whom they belong were not addressed by the university.

Next Steps

The announcement comes 32 years after the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was passed, which outlines the requirements for returning cadavers and other burial-related items to tribal nations.

The revelation was first made public by Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod in a statement to the campus on September 20. He claimed that although the institution had started repatriating some artifacts, it had not yet been concluded.

The university stated that as part of its repatriation efforts, it would establish policies and procedures for repatriation, form an advisory committee, consult with tribal governments, audit all of its collections, find space for the Indigenous Studies Program, and support gathering opportunities for the campus’ Native American community.

KU also released a statement formally apologizing to all Native communities in North America, past, present, and future.

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