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Remains of American Indian ancestors discovered at UND

UND President Andrew Armacost
UND President Andrew Armacost

President Armacost says the institution is committed to returning every sacred item and ancestor to their rightful homes.

Earlier this year, American Indian remains were discovered at the University of North Dakota.

UND President Andrew Armacost says the remains are believed to be partial skeletal remains of dozens of individuals. He says his administration fully takes responsibility for whatever actions led to the inappropriate storage of the remains, and that he is committed to working with local tribes to make things right.

Laine Lyons is Director of Development at UND’s College of Arts and Sciences, and is part of a repatriation committee examining some sacred items being stored on campus. She’s also an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Lyons was present when the remains were discovered.

"In that moment, my heart sunk into my stomach. It was at that moment that I knew we were another institution that didn't do the right thing."

Armacost says once the discovery was made, the University reached out to representatives from a half-dozen tribal nations. He says they have been working closely with them ever since to return the items, and remains of the ancestors to their rightful tribal lands.

Doug MacDonald is a Psychology Professor at UND, and an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota. He says the realization of this discovery is a heavy blow to the local Native communities.

"For those of us on the committee that are of American Indian descent, we are all Northern Plains American Indian tribal members. When we became aware of the locations and, those of which we know, from which the ancestors came from - you suddenly begin to realize, knowing where your own family and tribes came from - that, it's highly likely that those are your ancestors."

MacDonald says he is lending his expertise in the mental health response to this discovery among Native students and faculty.

Armacost says a committee has been formed to work with tribal representatives in guiding the University’s repatriation efforts, and to ensure that all sacred items and ancestors are returned to their rightful homes.