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- The Harvard University student newspaper reported that the university is illegally holding human remains.
- Thousands of remains belong to Native Americans and are held on campus.
- A 1990 law stipulates that the remains must be returned to their descendants.
Harvard University retained the remains of thousands of Natives despite a 1990 federal law requiring the bodies to be returned to their descendants, the school’s newspaper, The Crimson reported, citing a leaked draft report.
Since passing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the university has returned 3,000 of the 10,000 bodies it once held. It also houses the remains of 19 people belonging to people of African descent.
The draft report, written by the Steering Committee on Human Remains in Harvard Museum Collections which was formed last year, discussed a push to increase the rate at which bodies are returned to descendants of the deceased. or the appropriate affinity groups.
“They were obtained under the violent and inhuman regimes of slavery and colonialism; they represent the University’s commitment and complicity in these categorically immoral systems,” says the draft report, which details more than one dozen recommendations for dealing with remains, according to The Crimson. “Furthermore, we know that skeletal remains have been used to promote false and racist ideas of difference in order to confirm existing social hierarchies and structures.”
Most of the remains are housed in the institution’s Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnography.
“Our collection of these peculiar human remains is a stark representation of structural and institutional racism and its long half-life,” the project says, according to The Crimson.
In a statement to Insider, the University said, “It is deeply frustrating that the Harvard Crimson has chosen to release an initial and incomplete draft report from the Committee on Human Remains.”
“Release of this draft is an irresponsible report and deprives the Committee of the finalization of its report and associated actions, and jeopardizes the thoughtful engagement of the Harvard community in its publication,” the statement continued. “Furthermore, he shares an outdated version with the Harvard community that does not reflect weeks of additional information and committee work.”
The leak comes just over a month after a faculty committee released a 134-page report highlighting Harvard’s role in advancing “race theory” and eugenics in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The April report, titled “Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery” and conducted by the faculty committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, also pointed out that thousands of remains linger on the campus, but did not recognize the 1990 law.
“One aspect of Harvard College’s original mission was to educate (and convert) Indigenous students alongside their white classmates,” the report said, adding that the school also attempted to “civilize “, to enslave and Christianize the indigenous peoples.
He went on to recommend the creation of a steering committee and that the university engage the descendants of enslaved individuals “through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building and educational support.”
“For too long, these remains have been separated from their individuality, their history and their communities,” the draft report also states.
Professor Evelynn Hammonds, chair of the Steering Committee on Human Remains in the Harvard Museum Collections, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.