That title above was painful to write. We are talking about the remains of a human being, someone’s ancestor or that ancestor’s sibling.
“Human remains excavated from Native American burial sites in Kansas soon will be returned to two tribes by the Kansas State Historical Society.”
That newspaper headline makes me smile because of the repatriation, but not a big smile because it involves human remains. It’s not the only historical society in possession of Native American remains. Many are being reclaimed by tribes; unfortunately in some cases it hasn’t been easy. Resistance still exists. Tribes, Archeologists, anthropologists, historians, and others are fully involved and aware of a variety of issues across the U.S. and in other places, too.
I know times have changed for the most part. Still some scavengers search for Native American remains and artifacts. It’s generally against the law to possess these. In my mind, it’s also unethical to even do the searching unless authorized by a tribe. Remains are sometimes discovered in an excavation or other building activity but experts are usually called upon. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a 1990 federal law.
In this Kansas case, the remains were donated to the KSHS. That’s another awful sentence to write and I am not placing any modern blame on anyone. An article in the Topeka Capital-Journal tells that “In 1881, the remains of at least two deceased people were donated to the KSHS by William Griffing, a private collector, after being dug out of the ground in Pottawatomie County.” It has been determined that the remains are probably from the Kaw Nation, of Oklahoma, and Kickapoo Tribe, of northern Kansas.
Check out the full article in the online Topeka Capital-Journal.
Additional reading (and this is only a small sample of articles.)
- Southern Oregon Historical Society
- Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe
- NAGPRA and Nebraska
- Carlisle Indian School
© 2016, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.