As part of the ongoing response to the discovery of Native American ancestral remains in campus facilities, the Office of the Provost has launched the Working Group on Human Remains at Dartmouth.
“This working group is an essential part of how Dartmouth is holding itself accountable to do better,” says Provost David Kotz ’86. “While we continue to take steps to help the community heal, the most important thing we can do is to establish effective institution-wide structures to ensure that this never happens again.”
The group—chaired by Sonu Bedi, the Hans ’80 and Kate Morris Director of the Ethics Institute, and Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Officer Shontay Delalue—is charged with reviewing information from throughout the institution and from external consultants related to human remains in Dartmouth’s care. That includes their identification, collection procedures, conditions of storage, use in teaching and research, and existing plans for return, reburial, and removal.
In addition, the group will oversee the creation of a comprehensive database of human remains across all Dartmouth schools and divisions; recommend a framework for the future collection, use, and stewardship of human remains according ethical principles, legal requirements, current scientific and scholarly practices, and the guidelines of the Toward Equity strategic plan; and provide regular updates to the community on its progress.
Along with Bedi and Delalue, members of the working group include:
- Jeremy DeSilva, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology
- Alejandro Diaz, chief compliance officer
- Bruce Duthu ’80, Samson Occom Professor and chair of the Department of Native American and Indigenous Studies
- Dean Madden, vice provost for research and professor of biochemistry and cell biology at the Geisel School of Medicine
- Jami Powell, associate director of curatorial affairs and curator of Indigenous art at the Hood Museum of Art
- James Reed, director of the Anatomy Laboratory at Geisel
- Kenya Tyson, senior associate provost
- Valen Werner ’20, coordinator of the Historical Accountability Student Research Program
Over the course of its work, the group will consult, as needed, with a broad range of faculty, staff, and student experts and stakeholders across campus.
The appointment of the working group is a response to an internal audit that found that some human remains previously believed to be non-Native were in fact Native American. Dartmouth announced this discovery in March, and the ancestral remains were moved to a secure off-campus site managed by the Hood Museum of Art.
Museum staff are consulting with tribal communities and working to repatriate the remains, following the legal framework established by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, known as NAGPRA.
Since then, Dartmouth has undertaken an external review of all skeletal remains in its possession and has communicated directly with all current students, faculty, and alumni who may have unwittingly handled the ancestral remains or taken classes in buildings where the remains were previously housed.
In April, Dartmouth enlisted a Native American medicine man to conduct ceremonies to spiritually cleanse those facilities, including Carpenter, Silsby, and Wilson Halls.
Dartmouth community members who have questions can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.