NAGPRA Compliance at Fort Lewis College

In 1990, Congress passed NAGPRA to address the rights of lineal descendants of Native American tribes (including Alaska Native villages) and Native Hawaiians to their funerary and sacred objects, human remains, and objects of cultural patrimony. In short, NAGPRA supports the safe return of significant artifacts from federally-funded institutions to their rightful owners. NAGPRA compliance requires ongoing effort and oversight. At Fort Lewis College, this is managed by the President and a specially appointed NAGPRA committee.

Additionally, given the unique history of FLC as a Native American-serving institution, the college's commitment to NAGPRA compliance goes beyond the letter of the law to also include community collaborations and public education.

Throughout its history, FLC has acquired items affected by NAGPRA through donations, purchases and archaeological activities. In 2013, FLC transferred control of many of these items to the Hopi Tribe, including the remains of 91 individuals. FLC is continuing efforts to transfer control of objects and remains from collections in the Anthropology department and the Center of Southwest Studies.

Accomplishments

FLC NAGPRA compliance accomplishments during the 2018-2019 academic year:

1. Over several months spanning 2018 and 2019 the NAGPRA team and the Center of Southwest Studies hosted representatives of fourteen Tribes and Pueblos to conduct consultation activities supported by the federal NAGPRA grant received by FLC. These Native nations include The Hopi Tribe, The Jicarilla Apache Nation, The Pueblo of Acoma, The Pueblo of Laguna, The Navajo Nation, The Pueblo of San Felipe, The Pueblo of San Ildefonso, the Pueblo of Santa Clara, The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, The Pueblo of Tesuque, The Ute Indian Tribe, The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, and the Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation.

2. NAGPRA grant co-PIs Shelby Tisdale and Kathy Fine-Dare attended the National NAGPRA Review Committee meetings in Washington, DC October 17-19 to present a progress report regarding FLC NAGPRA Compliance and documentation and consultation grant activities. 

3. Following a NAGPRA Committee request, NAGPRA Committee members and NAGPRA grant co-PIs Kathy Fine-Dare and Shelby Tisdale met on November 27, 2018, with representatives of the La Plata County Historical Society/Animas Museum regarding a split collections issue (FLC is in possession of funerary objects split from ancestral remains in the Animas Museum). 

4. The NAGPRA Committee approved a request to file a Notice of Inventory Completion for three sets of culturally affiliated ancestral remains. The Notice was submitted to the National Park Service on March 1, 2019 and published on June 13, 2019.

5. With guidance from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's NAGPRA office, Fort Lewis College entered the Form B Disposition Process so that 40 ancestral individuals classified as culturally unidentified may be transferred jointly to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. On April 12, 2019, NAGPRA Liaison and NAGPRA Committee Chair Dr. Kathy Fine-Dare requested letters of support from all 49 State of Colorado consulting Tribes and Pueblos for the Form B Disposition Process. It is anticipated that the package will be submitted late in 2019 with approval and repatriation targeted for 2020.

6. In early June of 2019 Dr. Shelby Tisdale submitted a request to the National NAGPRA office to request an expansion of scope of work so that additional analysis could be conducted on faunal collections housed in the Center of Southwest Studies. The request was approved later in June, 2019.

Some accomplishments of the NAGPRA Committee 2017-2018:

  1. President Dene Thomas appointed 5 new committee members to represent the local Ute nations and the CCIA; In addition, she created the College’s first budget line for NAGPRA compliance activities and approved the establishment of the first FLC NAGPRA office, located in the Center of Southwest Studies. Finally, the position of FLC NAGPRA Coordinator—which had previously focused solely on human remains—was eliminated and replaced by that of a NAGPRA Tribal Liaison with a purview covering all aspects of NAGPRA compliance and performance expectations outlined in the FLC NAGPRA Policy.
  2. President Thomas also appointed a Native American student to the committee;
  3. The college was awarded a National Park Service NAGPRA Consultation and Documentation Grant for $89,878 (S. Tisdale and K. Fine-Dare, co-PIs);
  4. The college established its first clear process for FLC NAGPRA compliance activities; and
  5. The NAGPRA Committee revised the FLC NAGPRA policy according to schedule.

The National Park Service grant supports FLC’s work in documenting existing collections and consultation with potentially culturally affiliated Native American Tribal nations to determine the affiliation of NAGPRA items in its collections.