LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2023) — The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ) is a pivotal federal law enacted in 1990 that addresses the repatriation and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and cultural patrimony.
With the understanding of the pain caused by historical practices, the University of Kentucky remains dedicated to working closely with Native nations, aiming to repatriate these items ethically. The size of the NAGPRA collections requires extensive expertise, staffing and resources and is an ongoing collaborative process involving thorough consultations with tribal stakeholders.
Celise Chilcote-Fricker, Ph.D., a distinguished bioarchaeologist and assistant professor in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, is the NAGPRA coordinator at the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at UK. In the five years she has been at UK, she has spearheaded various initiatives, including policy implementation, research moratorium, establishing an osteoarchaeology lab and developing digital databases shared with Native nations. Chilcote-Fricker is steadfast in leading this work with transparency, respect and meaningful consultations with tribal representatives.
In early 2023, the university pledged nearly $900,000 over the next three years to accelerate the NAGPRA efforts. This substantial investment, a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost and led by Dean Ana Franco-Watkins, aims to expand personnel and resources, doubling the team dedicated to NAGPRA efforts.
Under Chilcote-Fricker’s leadership, and with reinvigorated support from the university, UK has made commendable progress in ensuring that these cultural artifacts find their way back to their rightful homes.
Through their efforts, UK has culturally affiliated and repatriated 721 ancestors and 5,186 associated funerary objects from 39 different sites, which represents about 15% of the university’s NAGPRA-related archaeological holdings.
On this episode of "Behind the Blue," Chilcote-Fricker discusses this impactful work and the University of Kentucky's commitment to honoring and returning these invaluable cultural treasures that for too long have remained within our walls.
For more information about NAGPRA, visit the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Association on American Indian Affairs websites. For more information about UK’s NAGPRA efforts, visit the UK Department of Anthropology.
"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.
For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.
To discover what’s wildly possible at the University of Kentucky, click here.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.