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Miami Tribe, Indiana University to co-host National NAGPRA Review Committee Meeting

For Immediate Release May 17, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, together with Indiana University, will co-host the Department of the Interior’s annual National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee Meeting in June.

The conference will be held in the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU Bloomington campus in June. The conference will be held in the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU Bloomington campus in June.This is one of the few times in the meeting’s more than 30-year history that a university has co-hosted the event with a tribe and the first time it has been held in Indiana or any Midwestern state from which native populations were removed in the 1800s. The collaboration further demonstrates the university’s continued commitment to strengthening relations with tribes and to ensuring compliance with the university’s legal and ethical obligations.

“The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is honored to co-host this event with Indiana University in a central part of our original homelands that the Myaamia people have called home from creation,” said Scott Willard, second councilperson and NAGPRA director for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. “We thank Indiana University and National NAGPRA for bringing the review committee meeting to the place of our ancestors.”

Tribes and university representatives from around the country will convene from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 7 and 8 in Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union. The meeting is free and open to the public.

NAGPRA created a Federal Advisory Review Committee in 1990 to monitor and review its implementation. The act requires institutions receiving federal funding to treat human remains with “dignity and respect”; recognize that human remains and other cultural items removed from federal or tribal lands belong to lineal descendants, Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations; and partner with those parties in determining the disposition of those remains and cultural objects.

“It is a privilege to co-host the review committee with our partners, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma,” IU NAGPRA Director Jayne-Leigh Thomas said. “This partnership is a reflection of Indiana University’s many years of collaboration, respect and trust with our tribal partners.”

Fred H. Cate, IU vice president for research and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law, said co-hosting the meeting demonstrates the university’s continued commitment to not merely complying with NAGPRA but to strengthening IU’s partnership with Native American nations. In 2021, working closely with tribal partners, IU participated in one of the largest repatriation and reburial efforts in United States history. Over the past decade, IU has doubled the number of full-time employees conducting the careful work to identify and return remains as soon as possible in accordance with NAGPRA.

IU has also prohibited all research on Native American remains held by the university and is actively consulting with tribal nations on the large collections housed at IU. Cate said that plans and the timeline for repatriation and reburial — including documentation and collections care — are developed collaboratively and conducted with the university’s tribal partners.

“IU takes these time-intensive and critical obligations very seriously,” Cate said. “We work collaboratively with our tribal partners and take direction from them as we pursue repatriation of artifacts that are within the care of the university and ensure compliance with NAGPRA, as well as develop and sustain meaningful, working partnerships.”

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