News Update

Bones used in UC Berkeley anthropology classes likely taken from Native American graves

For decades, anthropology students at UC Berkeley have been taught with the remains of at least 95 people excavated from gravesites — many likely Native Americans, according to ProPublica.

The bones were stored in wooden bins, sorted by body part.

Professor Tom White, who used the collection to teach his students for decades, said the bones had been handed down from anthropology professor to anthropology professor for years and came with no records.

The university analyzed the bones in 2020 and discovered most were likely Native American. The university has been at odds with tribal nations in the past because of its handling of ancestral remains, according to ProPublica.

More than 30 years ago, Congress ordered universities that received federal funds to report any human remains in their collection, but UC Berkeley has been slow to do so. The university estimates it still holds the remains of 9,000 indigenous people in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology alone, according to the article.

UC Berkeley officials declined interview requests, according to ProPublica, but issued a statement saying there is now a moratorium on using ancestral remains for teaching and research at the university. The Hearst Museum also has been closed to the public so the staff can prioritize repatriation.

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