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Remains of tribal ancestors to be returned from CMU in early November

The bones of 144 American Indian ancestors will find their final resting place during Native American Heritage Month in November.

Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe have collaborated to return the remains and funerary objects to the tribe. They are currently located at the Museum of Cultural and Natural History in Rowe Hall.

“With the understanding that we are the Chippewas at Central Michigan University, we understand that it is relevant that we have the education about Native Americans,” said Colleen Green, director of Native American Programs.

The remains were originally donated to CMU by various people, but are being returned under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law passed in 1990.

Green said it is great CMU is giving the Native American bones back — but it is also the law.

“We know the law here,” Green said. “We have taken on the initiative to give those remains back.”

On Nov. 3, the process of moving the ancestors will begin with a Repatriation Roundtable at the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

The next day a six-mile “Walk Them Home” procession will begin. CMU, the Ziibiwing Center and the tribe will bring the bones to their resting place at the Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery.

According to the College of Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, lunch will be served for all “Walk Them Home” participants upon arrival at the cemetery, and return shuttle service will also be available.

Provost Gary Shapiro said NAGPRA approved the repatriation earlier this year.

“In particular, the arrangements and the ceremony were discussed with (CHSBS Interim) Dean Pamela Gates and members of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe,” he said.

All federal agencies are subject to NAGPRA.

On Nov. 5, a “Returning to the Earth” ceremony for the ancestors and their funerary objects will be held at the Ancestral Cemetery.

Following the ceremony at 6 p.m., the Ziibiwing Center will host a spirit feast.

Gates said the ancestral remains have been on CMU’s campus for many years.

“CMU and Saginaw Chippewa Tribal members have worked together to maintain a place of respect for the remains until the legal process of the return could be accomplished,” she said.

For more information, contact the Native American Programs office at 774-2508 and the Ziibiwing Center at 775-4750.

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