(The Center Square) – The University of North Dakota is working with consultants to determine how much it will cost to repatriate Native American remains and artifacts found on the campus.
The publicly funded university is not facing any legal action under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, university officials said in a webpage set up last week.
The remains and artifacts were found by faculty and staff members in March, said UND President Andrew P. Armacost. They said 200 boxes of items are currently being held in a secure location on campus.
"Upon learning of this discovery, we reached out immediately to representatives from a half-dozen tribal nations," Armacost said. "That number has now grown to thirteen and will continue to expand. We have been collaborating with them and seeking their advice for more than four months to make certain this work is done correctly, and this will continue until completion."
The work could take years, he said.
"UND will hire the appropriate cultural resource consultants to help with this process," Armacost said. "The remaining collection at UND is significant, with dozens of ancestors and several hundred containers of objects taken from Indigenous land and communities, requiring painstaking labor for identification and placement."
Nathan Davis, executive director for the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, said the news was terrible, but the university was handling the discovery in the right way.
"While there is no way we can ever forget what has happened to our ancestors, we can honor them by making sure they return home to rest," Davis said, "We have a unique opportunity to honor them by changing the way that repatriation is done, as we all know that this work sadly isn't over."