Indiana University and Angel Mounds complete repatriation

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University and several federally recognized tribal nations have completed the repatriation of the Angel Mounds collection in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Passed in 1990, NAGPRA mandates the return of Native American human remains and cultural items to tribal nations. This repatriation includes the remains of over 700 individuals unearthed from the Angel Mounds National Historic Landmark and State Historic Site in Evansville, Indiana, starting in the 1930s.

Site director Mike Linderman says though the remains were unearthed in Evansville, they’ve spent the past 50 years in Bloomington as the Angel Mounds did not have the capabilities to keep the remains there. Linderman adds that things have finally been made right at Angel Mounds.

Tribal nations indicated their desire for IU to focus specifically on Angel Mounds at a November 2016 15-tribe consultation in Oklahoma, an event sponsored by a National NAGPRA Consultation grant. IU NAGPRA Director Jayne-Leigh Thomas said they immediately got to work after returning to Bloomington.

In addition to working with the Quapaw Nation, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Shawnee Tribe, IU worked closely with representatives from the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, which includes Angel Mounds.

John Rodgers is a member of both the Quapaw and Miami nations, he remarks that it’s “great to see” the tribe’s ancestors back in their intended resting place, adding that he believes his ancestors never would’ve imagined that their final resting place would be disturbed one day.

Rodgers notes that the experience has been an educational one for him as he and the rest of the Quapaw Nation think more about the banks of the Arkansas River, not the Ohio River.

(This story was originally published on April 15, 2021)

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