Skip to main content

IU hosts intensive summer training on NAGPRA best practices

Aug 16, 2023

Indiana University recently hosted a weeklong training program that shared best practices regarding the repatriation of ancestral remains and cultural objects under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

A speaker addresses the crowd during the inaugural NAGPRA Summer Training Education Program at Indiana University. Photo courtes... A speaker addresses the crowd during the inaugural NAGPRA Summer Training Education Program at Indiana University. Photo courtesy of Jayne-Leigh Thomas, Indiana University

The Intensive NAGPRA Summer Training Education Program — held July 10 to 14 in partnership with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and funded as a pilot program by the Wenner-Gren Foundation — provided step-by-step guidance regarding consultation, documentation, repatriation and reburial, and managing inadvertent discoveries. Programming included Indigenous presenters from the archaeology, museum, anthropology and tribal government perspectives.

“Providing robust training and support for NAGPRA professionals is crucial to ensure universities, museums and other institutions are effective and thoughtful collaborators with tribal partners,” said Russell J. Mumper, IU vice president for research. “It was an honor to have such a diverse group of leaders convene at IU to not only share best practices, but to foster crucial dialogue and strengthen partnerships necessary to shape how we steward and ultimately repatriate Native American ancestral remains and artifacts.”

Forty participants were selected to attend the training program out of nearly 100 applicants, including individuals from federal agencies, tenured professors, tribal archaeologists, tribal elders and more. Ten percent of the applicants were already employed as NAGPRA practitioners, emphasizing the need for training of this kind.

“Nationwide, there is an enormous lack of training for NAGPRA work,” IU NAGPRA Director Jayne-Leigh Thomas said. “In many instances, museum curators, academic staff or tribal representatives are told they are suddenly in charge of NAGPRA for their institution or tribe, with little to no resources and no opportunity for training or education.

“What little training exists is cost prohibitive and teaches you what the law requires, but it often lacks details of how to do it. With the large amount of NAGPRA work still to be done across the country, there is an enormous need for just this type of training and support.”

Plans are being made to continue the workshop in future years, with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign set to host in 2024.

Workshop attendees pose for a large group photo The NAGPRA workshop hosted 40 attendees from federal agencies, tenured professors, tribal archaeologists, tribal elders and more. Photo courtesy of Jayne-Leigh Thomas, Indiana University

This is not the first time IU has hosted events related to NAGPRA. In June, together with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, IU hosted the Department of the Interior’s annual NAGPRA Review Committee Meeting. This marked one of the first times in the meeting’s history that a university co-hosted the event with a tribe and the first time it was held in Indiana or any Midwestern state from which native populations were removed in the 1800s.

Since the creation of the IU NAGPRA Office in 2013, IU has honored all requests for repatriation and determines timelines and protocols for repatriation in collaboration with tribal partners. In 2021, working closely with tribal partners, IU participated in one of the largest repatriation and reburial efforts in United States history. As a matter of university policy, IU has also prohibited all research on Native American remains held by the university.

Author

University Communications and Marketing

Kelsey Cook

More stories

Campus Life,Health and Wellness

Get ready for the statewide tornado drill

News at IU