Saturday, March 20, 2010

More news on Univ. of Michigan

New rule to prompt University of Michigan to re-examine holdings of Native American human remains

The University of Michigan will have to re-examine its holdings of Native American human remains under a change to federal guidelines announced today.

The U-M Museum of Anthropology has about 1,400 human remains in a storage facility that are 800 to 3,000 years old.

The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, known as NAGPRA, requires museums, federal agencies and institutions to inventory holdings of human remains and identify their cultural affiliations with tribes. Native groups can then claim the return of remains deemed to be culturally affiliated with them.


Frank Bartley III, an Odawa Indian and a U-M student, beats the drum and sings with other Native Americans in front of Fleming Hall in Ann Arbor before a U-M regents meeting in this 2008 file photo. The gathering was part of a request to the regents to return Native-American remains.

Ann Arbor News file photo

What to do with the vast number of human remains where cultural identity hasn't been determined hadn't been fully addressed in the law and has been a sticking point between the University of Michigan and some Native American groups. U-M has designated the 1,380 human remains it stores "culturally unidentifiable."

Under the rule change, U-M museum officials would need to alert modern-day federal tribes of any "culturally unidentifiable" human remains it has that were discovered near areas the tribes historically occupied. Those tribes could ask for the remains to be returned based on the geographic link. A national review committee would settle disputes between tribes. The change will take effect in May.

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