CSU facing new scrutiny over possession of Native American artifacts, remains

Leo Stallworth Image
Thursday, August 31, 2023
CSU facing scrutiny over Native American artifacts, remains
An audit estimates only 6% of CSU's almost 700,000 Native American artifacts and remains have been repatriated.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- Tribal leaders are demanding the California State University system return thousands of Native American remains and cultural objects.

During a hearing this week, state lawmakers questioned school administrators on their handling of these artifacts.

According to an audit, only 6% of CSU's almost 700,000 remains and items have been repatriated.

Several years ago, California lawmakers issued a public apology for past cruel, violent and unjust treatment of Native American people throughout the state. Now, Native Americans want the state to go a step further.

"As we gather today to further the healing process initiated in 2019 by the governor we must also seek the return of our ancestors remains now in the state's possession - specifically those in the possession of the California State University system," said Assemblyman James Ramos.

Last year the state underwent an audit surveying all CSU campuses regarding the ancestral remains and cultural items in their possession and what progress has been made toward repatriation of those remains.

Native American leaders spoke at hearings highlighting this problem.

"The federal Native American and Graves Protection Repatriation Act was enacted in 1990 more than 30 years ago," said Assemblyman David Alvarez.

"Those human remains rightfully and morally belong to the tribal families for proper and respectful re-burial. It is very concerning that decades after federal and state laws were enacted to repatriate remains and cultural objects almost nothing has been done to fulfill that obligation."

Native American tribal leaders made it clear the hearings were designed to demand answers from the CSU system.

"To probe why the California State University system has failed to to return almost 700,000 Native American remains but also to work together to ensure that we have a path forward," Ramos said.

Native American leaders are ready to work with the CSU system to remedy this dilemma.

Following the state audit CSU released this statement:

"The California State University deeply respects the sovereignty of Native American tribal communities and will honor their ancestors and sacred ways through a reverent return of ancestral remains and cultural items taken from them and housed on our universities for far too long."