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Wesleyan University Moves Toward NAGPRA Compliance

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According to the Wesleyan Argus, a newspaper published by Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the university recently held a presentation on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) that discussed the Act and University’s non-compliance with the law. The presentation was given by Jan Bernstein, a consultant for NAGPRA.

NAGPRA is a Federal law passed in 1990 that requires that Native American human remains and cultural objects in the possession of museums and Federal agencies, should upon request be returned to their respective tribes or families. Since the school receives federal funding, it is legally obligated to comply. Currently, Wesleyan University is not compliant with two sections of the law, the Wesleyan Argus reported.

What went wrong? According to the university newspaper, when the school was preparing the inventory of human remains and other funerary items in their possession that was sent to NAGRPA and respective Indian tribes back in 1995, they did not consult with the tribes before finishing the inventory. In addition to that, the list of cultural items that was sent to eight Indian tribes in Connecticut and Tennessee seventeen years ago, was incomplete. “I found that Wesleyan had other items from almost every state,” Bernstein said. “So they have many Native American objects that should have been recorded with the appropriate tribe.”

Good news: the situation is about to change. “The university is finally taking the first step towards repatriation,” says the announcement on the Wesleyan University’s website. University students who came to Bernstein’s presentation, many of whom happen to be members of Students for NAGRPA Compliance--as well as faculty in attendance--expressed great interest in making sure that University becomes compliant with NAGPRA, college newspaper reported. “We will have a report by June,” Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon said. According to Bernstein, the school will need at least a year to become becoming officially compliant.