A Somber—And Essential—Homecoming

Aerial photograph of the Angel Mounds State Historic Site on a sunny day. At center is a large Earth mound surrounded by woodlands and bordered on the south by the winding Ohio River.
Photo by Mike Linderman, Angel Mounds State Historic Site

After nearly a century, the remains of more than 700 Native Americans have returned home.

This past April, IU completed the repatriation of the Angel Mounds collection in partnership with several federally recognized tribal nations, including the Quapaw Nation, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Shawnee Tribe. The work was in accordance with 1990’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The collection of remains and cultural items was exhumed from the Angel Mounds National Historic Landmark and State Historic Site in Evansville, Indiana, in the 1930s.

“This somber, necessary, and important experience will remain in our hearts forever,” said former IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. “I am grateful for the integrity, sensitivity, and care with which these human beings were restored to their proper homes.”

As part of its ongoing support of tribal nations, IU recently established a NAGPRA Review Board. The board includes tribal leaders and IU researchers who will approve research on Native American ancestral remains going forward.

“We applaud . . . all the Indiana University staff and faculty for their persistence to ensure that our tribal nations are essential partners to create a bold and bright vision for all the IU campuses,” said Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe. “There is still much more work to do. But, with this step, Indiana and her historical and ancestral tribal nations can do so with amity and integrity.”

This article was originally published in the 2021 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By
A. Price
A resident of the Hoosier state since grade school, Alex forged a friendship with “tried and true” IU upon becoming a writer at the IU Foundation.