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University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology — commonly known as the Penn Museum. Photo credit: GettyImages.

University of Pennsylvania has the 46th largest collection of unreturned Native American remains in the U.S.

Even after a legislation pushed for the repatriation, database shows institutions are lacking in returning the remains to Indigenous communities.

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ProPublica published a database today allowing the public to see which institutions still have Native American remains — even after three decades of the legislation that pushed for the repatriation of those remains to Indigenous communities.  

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) passed by the Congress, in 1990, set up a process for tribes to be able to claim the return of their remains from museums and institutions that had them. 

Today, at least half of the remains of more than 210,000 Native Americans have yet to be returned. ProPublica pointed out that tribes have struggled to reclaim them mainly because of the lack of both federal funding for repatriation and consequences for institutions that refuse to follow the law. 

The database shares information on the roughly 600 federally funded institutions that reported having such remains to the Department of the Interior. 

It was found that 10 institutions hold about half of the reported Native Americans remains that have not been made available for return to tribes. University of California at Berkeley is at the top of the list with more than 9,000 remains. Illinois State Museum and Ohio History Connection come right after. 

In Pennsylvania, institutions reported making 14% of the more than 2,100 Native American remains taken from the state available for return to tribes under NAGPRA.

The University of Pennsylvania has the 46th largest collection of unrepatriated Native American remains in the U.S. The institution reported still having the remains of at least 400 Native Americans that it has not made available for return to tribes. UPenn has made available for return 36% of the more than 600 Native American remains that it reported to the federal government.

Pennsylvania State University reported still having the remains of at least 38 Native Americans. The institution has made available for return 32% of the 56 Native American remains that it reported to the federal government. 

As for Temple University, the institution still has the remains of at least 116 Native Americans, and has made available for return only 7% what was reported to the federal government.  

If you want to find out more about the database, click here

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