UCSD Plans Return of Kumeyaay Tribe Bones

Thirty-four years after American Indian bones were first found under UCSD, two years after a panel concluded that the bones should not be returned and one year after Chancellor Marye Anne Fox pledged to continue working on repatriation, the university is working with local tribes to return the bones.

The 29 bones — which, at 10,000 years old, are some of the oldest ever found in the Western Hemisphere — belong to the Kumeyaay tribe, and were first discovered by Cal State Northridge archeologists in 1976. According to the Native-American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, all institutions that receive federal funding must return American Indian cultural artifacts and human remains when a tribe can prove “cultural affiliation.”

“Cultural affiliation” can be proven if there is evidence of a connection based on different factors, including geography, kinship, linguistics, folklore and oral tradition.

The Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriations Committee submitted a request asking for the remains to be reburied to UCSD administrators in 2006, claiming the bones belonged to Kumeyaay ancestors.

But in 2008, a faculty panel determined that the bones could not be proven to have “cultural affiliation” with the Kumeyaay tribe, releasing a paper that said the bones predated the movement of the Kumeyaay into the region.

Now, UCSD spokesperson Christine Clark said the university is working with the Kumeyaay tribe and UC system under new Department of the Interior regulations to get the bones returned. On March 15, 2010, the Department of Interior amended the NAGPRA to state that “culturally unidentifiable” bones can be returned if a local group of American Indians with a connection agrees to act as a representative and claim the bones.

“The [Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee] wrote a letter informing the campus that the La Posta Band of Mission Indians, a federally recognized tribe, had been selected for the proposed transfer of human remains and funerary objects from the University House property in La Jolla Farms,” Clark said.

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox stressed that the university is waiting on the tribes for the next step and a date for the return has not been set.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal