Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut has issued a formal apology to Native nations and Indigenous Peoples and plans to begin repatriating cultural items.
The apology, issued November 8, begins by stating: “Wesleyan University formally apologizes to all Native Nations and indigenous peoples for partaking in the 19th century and 20th century scientific and academic practices of accepting Native American human remains and other cultural items into its institution and collections without the free, prior, and informed consent of Native Nations, indigenous peoples, the individual, or an individual’s family.”
The Museum of Natural History opened at the university in 1871, which was when it “became a part of the collecting culture of academic and museum institutions of the time, taking and retaining indigenous human remains and cultural items within its collection,” states the apology. That museum closed in 1957 and the collection was put into storage. The collection was dusted off and brought out again in the 1970s and became a part of the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collection.
The university has adopted a Repatriation Policy in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which also allows for international repatriation.
The apology ends by saying that “Wesleyan University is dedicated to working in partnership with Native Nations and indigenous peoples. We welcome Native Nations to campus for tribal consultations and commit to having an ongoing dialogue with indigenous peoples about repatriation.”