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UND acknowledges more Indigenous remains in its possession

Armacost, Wynne address campus about repatriation efforts.

UND
A UND sign, on the Grand Forks campus.
Herald file photo
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GRAND FORKS — More human remains have been found at the University of North Dakota, school officials announced Wednesday, Nov. 2.

The announcement comes roughly eight weeks after the university first publicly acknowledged that it had in its possession dozens of remains of Indigenous people, as well as various associated sacred objects.

While the total is not yet known, around 200 boxes of sacred objects have been found and the remains of around 70 ancestors have also been located so far.

UND President Andrew Armacost addressed the university Wednesday, updating the campus of its repatriation efforts. Armacost was joined by Dr. Joshua Wynne, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in a video message. The two announced the finding of at least one additional Native American ancestor’s remains within the school.

“I want to emphasize that I am aware of the pain this has caused my colleagues,” Wynne said. “I have visited with many of them, and the pain is palpable. I apologize for my role in not alleviating that pain before now. We will rely on the actions and recommendations of UND’s repatriation committee as to the appropriate and respectful way of returning the ancestors to their homes.”

Although Armacost could not confirm how the remains arrived in the School of Medicine’s possession, he stressed that all human remains currently obtained by the school for medical research have the explicit consent of their donors.

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“This policy (of obtaining consent from donors) will ensure that not only Native American ancestral remains will be treated with dignity, but also all specimens with regards to medical research,” Armacost said in an interview with the Herald.

On Aug. 31, Armacost gave an apology to tribal nations across the country and committed to making amends with those groups after the discovery on campus of partial skeletal remains of dozens of Indigenous ancestors, as well as sacred objects from Indigenous communities.

At the time, the total was not known, as work to inventory what has been found is continuing. Approximately 250 boxes of sacred objects had been located, including the remains of upwards of 70 ancestors.

On Wednesday, Armacost cited November’s significance as Native American Heritage Month. He said it provides an opportunity for the UND campus to come together on the front of repatriation.

“Let me urge each of you to keep looking out for one another, and to make sure we offer respect and dignity to those most deeply impacted,” he said. “This is also a time to examine the holistic picture of how we support Indigenous peoples on campus through programming, support services, representation and actions that eliminate biases and barriers.”

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