LAWRENCE, Kan. — The University of Kansas’ student government is responding after learning that hundreds of Native American remains are still being housed on campus.
The school put out a statement announcing plans for continued study of the remains.
Yamina Sfiat, interim co-chair of the Indigenous Studies Student Association, said she can no longer step foot in the building, adding her culture does not allow for her to be among the dead.
“September 18. I know the day. It was at that day that he disclosed to us that he had only just found out. So leadership within Indigenous Studies program had no idea. They were held just as much in the dark as we were,” Sfiat said.
She assumed native remains the school had were “repatriated,” a requirement under a 1990 federal law.
“We’re constantly being disrespected in our items and our people being taken away from their resting place,” Sfiat said.
Now student groups have put forward a resolution, asking KU administration for “a full explanation as to why ancestral remains were held in the same space as the indigenous studies program without our knowledge.”
They also said the school “should hold a public press conference to apologize … for not disclosing details of native American ancestors being housed in Lippincott [Hall].”
The school also put out a statement this week offering some explanation, saying KU “is now poised to be a leader in genetic studies of Indigenous Peoples.”
According to the statement, KU “for ethical, legal, and scientific reasons, research pertaining to Indigenous Communities and particularly that utilizing native American human remains must be done in a thoughtful, humanistic, and ethical manner so as not to harm, alienate, or insult any peoples, including those potentially related to the subjects of study.”
But some students said the school has already crossed a line.
“Indigenous issues are a human rights issue, and we are talking about death. I think that anyone who knows they have buried themselves knows the pain of what it would be like to have their relatives dug up. You don’t have to be native to understand the severity of that,” Sfiat said.
According to a statement from KU, administration is currently in the process of assembling an “advisory panel” to help them develop protocols in their genetic studies.
But students want to be more involved in that process, saying so far, that’s only happened behind closed doors.
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