Update on NAGPRA

May 16, 2022

Dear all,

I am writing to update on where we are in terms of repatriating archaeological collections that we discovered on campus in 2019. This included more than 200 boxes of material from 82 Alaskan sites, 20 New York sites, one Egyptian site, and one Chilean site. In 2020, three anthropology faculty members (Professors Beisaw, Beck, and Cofran) worked with the Dean of Faculty, Associate Dean of Faculty, and several administrative assistants to determine rightful owners and to return the collections.

As of this month, May 2022, all archaeological collections that included Indigenous ancestors and their possessions have been returned to their descendant communities. Additionally, all collections made under excavation or collection permits, regardless of their contents, were returned to those named in the permit. A total of 26 boxes of material remains from the collections. These are collections for which no means of return has been identified. None of these boxes include human remains, sacred or funerary objects, or objects of cultural patrimony.

With leadership from the Vassar Anthropology department, the College has now completed an inventory of the campus to understand what Native American collections Vassar has had, and the College has repatriated all archaeological collections to their corresponding Indigenous communities, in accordance with both letter and the spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Additional collections of concern were discovered in the Biology department and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and these were reported to the appropriate Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Consultations are ongoing, with the intention to return, not retain. Reviews of the Warthin Natural History and Geology collections and the Dickinson Music Library’s instrument collections did not reveal items of Indigenous origin.

Furthermore, the Native American Advisory Committee (NAAC) is now a standing subcommittee of CIE, to continue the work expressed in our Land Acknowledgement in which we pledge “to build and sustain relationships with Native communities; to expand opportunities for Native student and faculty leadership on campus; and to collaborate with Native nations to know better the Indigenous peoples, past and present, who care for this land.” I am profoundly grateful to Professor April Beisaw and Associate Dean Kate Susman, who have led this work for nearly three years, and to the students, faculty, and employees who have served on NAAC to support the College’s efforts to fulfill the full intent of our land acknowledgement.

If you have questions, please let me know.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604