Speaker to discuss Native American burial rites

By Gus Bode

Jennifer Miksula will share six years of research she gathered on the importance of Native American burial protection

When prayer pipes are excavated and put in museums and kept from the tribe to which they belong, many Native Americans feel it is a theft of spirituality, according to Jennifer Miksula.

“Many Native Americans still feel that their ancestors spirits are within the artifacts,” Miksula said.


Miksula will be presenting independent research she has gathered over the past six years at 7 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom A of the Student Center in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

In her presentation, she will discuss the importance of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the importance of knowing more about different cultures and heritage.

“Just look in your backyard,” Miksula said. “Someone else used to live there. A whole culture lived there.”

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) established requirements for the treatment of Native American human remains and sacred or cultural objects found on Federal Land.

Miksula, a member of SOARRING, Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group Foundation, said that this act is important because many of the remains and artifacts found play an important part of cultural discovery for many Native Americans.

“It is a way to help modern Native Americans keep in touch with traditional ways and their spirituality,” Miksula said.

The act also assigns ownership and control of Native American cultural items, human remains and associated funerary objects to Native Americans and provides for the protection, inventory and repatriation of the objects.


If any items are discovered, a reasonable effort must be made to protect the items and notify the appropriate Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization.

Miksula became interested in the subject of Native American burial because she felt that it was disrespectful to move a person from where they were buried. Miksula also wondered why a person could have been buried in that particular area in the first place.

She gathered her information by talking with paleontologists, archeologists and several Native Americans about the importance of protected sacred sites and artifacts and will discuss her findings.

“I think that our ancestors and grandparents were buried in a certain place for a reason, and we need to know why,” Miksula said. “We are walking a fine line between teaching people and interfering with people’s culture and traditions.”

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]