University of Minnesota to repatriate Mimbres objects to descendent tribes
On February 11, 2022, University of Minnesota Board of Regents authorized the repatriation of objects from a collection of Mimbres-affiliated cultural artifacts, a significant step forward in an effort to honor the University’s ethical, moral and legal obligations. Though the recommendation for repatriation came forward based on a variety of considerations, including ethical and policy considerations, these actions will also support compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
“Today’s repatriation determination is another milestone for our institution and our Tribal partners,” Board Chair Ken Powell said after the resolution was approved. “This is an opportunity to reaffirm the mission of the University of Minnesota. While the law maps out the decisions to be made, it is the moral and ethical calling of our land grant university that inspires and guides us, demanding that we act justly by repatriating that which was never ours. We cannot undo our past. We can accept responsibility for it. That means more than acknowledgements and apologies. Today, the University is exhibiting the values of what it means to be a land grant institution by authorizing the repatriation of the Mimbres objects to their rightful home with their Native peoples.”
The Board’s action authorizes University leadership to advance the ongoing consultation with the appropriate Tribal Nations of the Southwest and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) regarding repatriation. The University is committed to working to complete these necessary conversations with care and coordinate next steps with the Tribal Nations involved. Ultimately, the University will return the Mimbres objects it holds, consistent with the many Tribal consultations that have taken place, research into the ancestral lineage of the objects and any additional obligations the University may have under NAGPRA.
The remains of Mimbres ancestors associated with the objects previously held at the Weisman Art Museum currently reside at Hamline University’s Osteology Repository under an agreement with MIAC. The University intends to coordinate with MIAC on a process to repatriate these remains.
Update—May 2023: Community representatives from several Mimbres-descendent Tribes visited Weisman Art Museum and UMN in October 2022. This visit was the first of many such consultations planned for the coming year, through which the Tribes will determine the timeline and specific processes for transporting the Mimbres materials held at the University back to their homelands. The Weisman’s inventory of Mimbres materials was submitted in full in December 2022; the Notice of Inventory Completion was subsequently published by the National Park Service in February 2023. (See above.)
The path forward to completing the repatriation process is both sensitive and complex, involving many stakeholders and extensive ongoing conversations among Mimbres-descendent Tribes themselves to determine shared roles, wishes, and responsibilities. It is not a process that can be rushed. The University of Minnesota and Weisman Art Museum continue to take direction in navigating the next steps in repatriation, from beginning to end, at the pace and according to the wishes and needs of our Tribal partners. The timeline will be determined by the Mimbres-descendent Tribes, according to their express needs and capacities. Until such time as the Mimbres ancestral remains and belongings may return home, the University will hold them in trust, in steady consultation with and at the direction of Tribal partners, with the care and respect their ancestors and contemporary family members deserve.
Update — September 2023: Tribal advisors have requested that their privacy be respected while this consultation process for the repatriation is underway. At their request, no press interviews will be given by tribal representatives, University of Minnesota or Weisman Art Museum about the repatriation until this process is complete and a public statement is issued. All other press queries should be directed to Jake Ricker, Director of Public Relations, University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Reach him by phone at 612-625-7134, or email him at email@example.com.
Photography/video of the Mimbres belongings
Weisman Art Museum, at University of Minnesota (UMN), will not share or reproduce images or videorecordings of the Mimbres cultural materials currently housed at the museum for external or press use. The University has convened an advisory committee of University scholars, including a number of Native American scholars, which is currently engaged in consultations with related Native nations and other relevant parties to help guide University leaders as they navigate decisions about the culture affiliation as well as the disposition and future care of these materials. Given the sensitive nature of the Mimbres materials, WAM is taking care to reserve the use of related images and videorecordings for approved, internal documentation purposes only, as requested by the Mimbres-descendant Tribes to whom these materials belong.
Updated May 2023