- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas State Historical Society plans to return human remains excavated from Native American burial sites in Kansas to two tribes.

The remains of two people dug up in Pottawatomie County were donated to the historical society in 1881 by a private collector. In the years since, the historical society has received Native American remains found in other counties, such as Doniphan, Shawnee and Atchison, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1s1ypAS ).

A team of archaeologists, historians, cultural anthropologists and Native Americans groups determined the remains likely belong to the Kaw Nation, of Oklahoma, and Kickapoo Tribe, of northern Kansas.

Robert Hoard, a state archaeologist, wrote in the federal registry in April that remains of 17 individuals, along with 148 burial objects, belong to the Kaw Nation.

If no other tribes object to Hoard’s findings during a month-long public comment period, the remains become property of the Kaw Nation. That’s required by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act passed in 1990.

“The law arose from an understandable dissatisfaction with the notion that museums that own human remains are studying them like scientific specimens,” Hoard said.

Hoard also wrote in April that his team determined the remains of at least one person, along with glass beads and pottery, dug up from burial sites in Atchison County in 1916 or 1917 belonged to the Kickapoo tribe.

The tribes decide what happens to the remains after repatriation. In some instances, tribes have chosen a formal repatriation ceremony, or the remains have been buried or returned with little to no ceremony. The Wichita tribe, which has had remains repatriated to them in the past, asked the historical society to keep them while the tribe builds a repository.

Other tribes refuse to discuss the deceased tribal members because of their tribal beliefs and the remains can’t be transferred to them.

“There’s no procedure out there” for handling remains, Hoard said. “This all has to be created, tribe by tribe.”

None of the Kansas remains and objects being returned to tribes are currently on display at the historical society. Objects believed to have cultural significance are kept in a sealed room to ensure they aren’t used for an exhibit, Hoard said.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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