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Report: Harvard University holds 7,000 Native American remains, 19 possible slaves

Report: Harvard University holds 7,000 Native American remains, 19 possible slaves
Image of Harvard University during the Harvard University Class Day address at the tercentenary theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 29, 2019. An unreleased report said the university is in possession of 7,000 Native American remains and 19 possible slaves. File Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

June 3 (UPI) -- Harvard University possesses human remains of 19 people who were likely enslaved and nearly 7,000 Native Americans and has been urged to turn over the remains to descendants, the institution's draft report said.

Harvard's student newspaper, The Crimson, wrote the unreleased report was created by the university's Steering Committee on Human Remains in Harvard Museum Collection.

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The report said, according to the newspaper, that the bodies were "obtained under the violent and inhumane regimes of slavery and colonialism; they represent the university's engagement and complicity in these categorically immoral systems. Moreover, we know that skeletal remains were utilized to promote spurious and racist ideas of difference to confirm existing social hierarchies and structures."

The report, which has not been finalized, suggested that a new commission be created that would oversee the treatment of the remains and efforts to find descendants.

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Evelynn M. Hammonds, the committee's chair, called the release of the draft "irresponsible reporting" because the report has not been finalized and its document could change before it becomes official.

She told The Crimson its reporting "puts in jeopardy the thoughtful engagement of the Harvard community in its release. Further, it shares an outdated version with the Harvard community that does not reflect weeks of additional information and committee work."

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The remains are primarily housed at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography. In an April report on Harvard's past involvement with slavery, the university committed $100 million to redress its legacy.

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Peabody Director Jane Pickering made a formal apology on behalf of the museum last year for the practices that led to its large collection of Native American human remains and funerary objects.

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