KU says it has human remains of Native Americans in museum collections that need to be returned to tribal nations

photo by: Chris Conde

The World War II Memorial Campanile on the University of Kansas campus is pictured on Jan. 19, 2022.

The University of Kansas is set to begin again a process to return to tribal nations Native American remains that KU currently has in some of its museum collections.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said Tuesday in a message to the university community that KU now recognizes that it has human remains in some of its collections that cause “great pain for many in the Native community and beyond.”

“While some efforts have been made in the past to repatriate items, the process was never completed,” Girod said.

A federal law — the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act — provides criteria for tribal nations to reclaim human remains and other objects related to burials. Girod on Tuesday said KU has a responsibility to follow that law.

KU did not release details on what remains it has, what tribal nations may be involved, or what has caused the issue to come to the forefront. Girod only said that it “has come to our attention” that KU possesses such remains.

“We understand we have an ongoing responsibility to be transparent and share as much information as possible,” Girod said. “At this point, we are still gathering information and will be sharing more detail in the near future.”

Tribes or others who have questions were directed to contact the university’s Office of the Provost.

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