Human Remains Working Group Issues Quarterly Report

News subtitle

New regulations require informed consent to use Native American objects.

Baker clock tower

(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


In its second report since its launch in May 2023, the provostial Working Group on Human Remains at Dartmouth has described its work to date to review the management of the human remains in Dartmouth’s care. 

The working group is part of Dartmouth’s response to the discovery last year of Native American ancestral remains on campus. The group is chaired by Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Officer Shontay Delalue and Sonu Bedi, the Hans ’80 and Kate Morris Director of the Ethics Institute.

The group’s responsibility falls into two categories: 

1) the management of ancestral remains that fall under the purview of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA—the legal framework through which federally funded institutions consult with Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to facilitate the repatriation of human remains and funerary, sacred, and communally owned items; and

2) the management of remains not otherwise covered by NAGPRA, such as remains that are non-Native or originated from outside of the United States.

For NAGPRA-related remains and objects, the report details the impact of new U.S. Department of the Interior-issued NAGPRA regulations, which went into effect in January and require museums to consult with tribes to obtain informed consent prior to exhibiting, researching, moving, or teaching with Native American objects. 

Jami Powell, associate director of curatorial affairs and curator of Indigenous art at the Hood Museum of Art, and Emily Andrews, NAGPRA research assistant, make up Dartmouth’s NAGPRA team, and consult on an as-needed basis with Kerianne Armelli, the program manager for osteology. The NAGPRA team has attended national training sessions on the new regulations and is in the process of consulting with tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations about relevant objects that are currently on display in the Hood Museum of Art, scheduled to be exhibited in the near future, or slated to be used in classes.

The team’s inventory of associated funerary objects in Dartmouth’s collections was completed in January, and the team has initiated tribal consultations regarding NAGPRA ancestors with the goal of beginning repatriations before the end of the calendar year. 

For remains on campus that don’t fall under NAGPRA, the working group reports that Armelli has completed the first phase of the planned osteological analysis, including the documentation of every skeletal element in the collection. The second phase is expected to be completed this summer. 

Read the full report.

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