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Repatriation of Indigenous Remains

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Background Summary  

The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) at UT Austin is a nationally recognized archeological research facility and the largest archeological repository in the state. TARL’s collections include human remains from archeological investigations housed in a separate, quiet, climate-controlled room. TARL has completed comprehensive inventories of the human remains as called for by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The disposition of human remains and associated objects affiliated with particular Native American Tribes will be determined by each tribe.

TARL supports the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), has faithfully repatriated remains under its guidance in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

The Miakan-Garza Band, a group that traces its ancestry to Coahuiltecans from Northern Mexico, requested remains in March 2016 through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. TARL concluded it did not have a sufficient basis to repatriate the remains. But in a letter on Sept. 25, 2020, President Jay Hartzell informed the Miakan-Garza Band that the university would seek a recommendation from the NAGPRA Review Committee to enable the university to offer the remains properly for reburial.

Some key facts around the case:

  • The remains in question, found in Hays County, Texas, are undisputedly those of pre-historic Native Americans.
  • It is less clear if they are Coahuiltecan.
  • There are no artifacts or other evidence allowing a cultural affiliation with the remains.
  • The Miakan-Garza Band traces their ancestry to the region around present-day Mier in Tamaulipas, Mexico.
  • They have described themselves as “one of the over two-hundred bands that resided in Texas and northeastern Mexico when the Spaniards first arrived.”
  • Two federally recognized tribes with geographic ties to the region where the remains were found objected to the repatriation.
  • TARL followed a rigorous process in evaluating the request for repatriation.

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