You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Indians’ remains to be returned to tribes

BERKELEY, Calif. - New federal protections could mean that most of the remains of an estimated 160,000 Native Americans held by universities, museums, and federal government agencies may soon be transferred to tribes.

Under the new regulations, museums and agencies are required to notify tribes whose current or ancestral lands harbored the remains that the tribe is entitled to have them back.

Continue reading below

Prestigious institutions from Harvard to the University of California Berkeley have already begun working through storehouses of remains uncovered by archeologists, highway and building contractors, and others since the 19th century. A few are surrendering bones to Native American tribes, and others are evaluating whether to do so.

Tribes have hailed the new federal rules, saying they will help close a long and painful chapter that saw native peoples’ bones stolen by grave robbers, boxed up in dusty storerooms, and disrespected by researchers.

“These are people,’’ said Louis Guassac, a member of the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee. “This isn’t stuff. You don’t do this to people. I don’t care how long they’ve been there. You respect them.’’

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 provided for the return of remains connected to modern-day tribes. But it was not until 2010 that a rule on the disposition of so-called culturally unidentifiable remains was finalized by the Department of the Interior.

Until then, more than 650 universities and other institutions had no clear guidance about how to return those remains, which account for the bones of about 116,000 people in their collections.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.