Policy for the Disposition of Ceremonial Artifacts, Human Remains and Burial Goods

Executive Memorandum 90-071

October 1, 1990

From: Robin S. Wilson, President

Subject: Policy for the Disposition of Ceremonial Artifacts, Human Remains and Burial Goods

On the recommendation of the Faculty Senate, I approve the attached document for implementation. This establishes policy for the Disposition of Ceremonial Artifacts, Human Remains and Burial Goods.

Policy for the Disposition of Ceremonial Artifacts, Human Remains and Burial Goods

The University is committed to the preservation of materials important to academic research and teaching as an expression of academic freedom. The academic community of California State University, Chico is also committed to the support of diverse cultural traditions and religious freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. These two commitments conflict in the case of the maintenance and disposition of human remains and burial goods.

Native American burial sites provide an ethical dilemma. To many Native Americans, the storage and study of human remains and burial goods is an infringement of their religious beliefs. California State University, Chico acknowledges the concerns of Native Americans for the proper disposition of ceremonial objects, human remains, and associated grave materials currently held in the collection of the Department of Anthropology. Against this concern, the University must also balance its educational mission, the need to support traditional academic freedoms, and its responsibility to hold in public trust all things necessary to further these goals. \

The University’s acknowledgement of responsibility must be manifested in the respectful stewardship and return of such materials when appropriate. To further this goal, it will be the policy of the University to respond to requests for the return of human remains, associated burial materials, and ceremonial objects on a case-by-case basis. The deliberations required by each such request will be carried out with due consideration for the religious beliefs of the Native Americans and the mission of the University.

  • The University will conduct an inventory of the Native American artifacts, human remains, and burial goods now in its possession. To the degree it is reasonable, in the course of the inventory, the University will make an effort to include available information as to tribal affiliation and geographic source of all materials.
  • All requests for information, access to collections, or reburial must be made in writing to the President of the University.
  • Requests must be specific, must provide evidence that the requestor represents the most likely descendants or is a family of tribal affiliate, demonstrate an appropriate link between the requestor and the claim, and demonstrate that the requestor’s actions have the approval of other members of his or her family or tribal group.
  • Meetings will be scheduled between the University’s representatives and the requestor and, where appropriate and when possible, relevant tribal elders or their designated representatives to discus the disposition of materials named in the request. The University’s representatives will be appointed by the President of the University or designee.
  • All agreements between the parties will reflect:
  • The legal conditions imposed by government agencies, private agencies, and private and public donors;
  • The interests of the university, the requesting parties, and the validity of their respective claims.
  • The agreement arrived at between the parties will be formalized in writing.