Wesleyan Apologizes to Native Nations, Launches Repatriation Effort

Wesleyan University apologized this week to Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, and said it is launching an effort to repatriate human remains and cultural objects, collected mostly in the 19th century, which are part of its anthropology and archaeology collections.

The university has adopted a repatriation policy in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

“Wesleyan University is dedicated to working in partnership with Native Nations and indigenous peoples,” the apology reads. “We welcome Native Nations to campus for tribal consultations and commit to having an ongoing dialogue with indigenous peoples about repatriation.”

Here is the full text of the apology:

Nov. 8, 2013

Apology to Native Nations and all Indigenous peoples

Wesleyan University formally apologizes to all Native Nations and indigenous peoples for partaking in the 19th century and 20th century scientific and academic practices of accepting Native American human remains and other cultural items into its institution and collections without the free, prior, and informed consent of Native Nations, indigenous peoples, the individual, or an individual’s family.

Wesleyan University opened its Museum of Natural History in 1871, with an initial collection from natural history cabinets maintained by the University, students, and alumni. The university became a part of the collecting culture of academic and museum institutions of the time, taking and retaining indigenous human remains and cultural items within its collection. The Wesleyan University Museum of Natural History closed in 1957, and was put into storage. The Collection was taken out of storage in the 1970s and eventually became part of the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collection.

Wesleyan University has adopted a Repatriation Policy, which specifies compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and also allows for indigenous international repatriation. Wesleyan University commits itself to compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and international repatriation, in recognition of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2012 Resolution on International Repatriation passed by the National Congress of the American Indians (“Support for International Repatriation”).

To facilitate the repatriation process, our Repatriation Coordinator oversees NAGPRA compliance and repatriation to Native Nations and indigenous peoples. The Provost of Wesleyan University has been delegated with the responsibility of issuing formal decisions and letters regarding repatriation.

Wesleyan University is dedicated to working in partnership with Native Nations and indigenous peoples. We welcome Native Nations to campus for tribal consultations and commit to having an ongoing dialogue with indigenous peoples about repatriation.