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The University of North Dakota has found Native American “human remains … believed to be partial skeletal remains from dozens of individuals.”

That’s what President Andrew P. Armacost told the campus Wednesday.

“When the federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was approved in 1990, the university had a responsibility to return ancestors and sacred objects to their tribal lands. Although this effort inexplicably fell short at UND, we are fully committed to righting this wrong,” Armacost said.

He first learned of the issue in March, when some faculty and staff members said they “found on campus sacred objects from Indigenous communities.” The university informed federal agencies and tribes right away.

But “to conduct this process in a dignified and respectful manner, UND made no public statements during the initial contact phase with tribal authorities and the appropriate state and federal agencies. This decision was made in accordance with the guidance and wishes provided by the tribal representatives. During the early stages of this process, we have observed Indigenous customs and traditions in the handling of the ancestors and sacred objects, to the very best of our abilities,” Armacost added.

He said the process would take time. “Repatriation will take time and hard work, perhaps several years. UND will hire the appropriate cultural resource consultants to help with this process. 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,” he said.