The University of Rhode Island (URI) and Connecticut College (CC) have completed an inventory of human remains found on CC’s New London campus in the 1980s and determined that they are of Native American ancestry.
More specifically, researchers found a traceable relationship between the remains and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe.
In compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed in 1990, human remains and cultural items belonging to Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiians that are found on federal or tribal lands are under the control of their lineal descendants, or the tribe whose land they are discovered on if no lineal descendants or tribal association can be determined.
If a cultural affiliation with a tribe is established, NAGPRA also requires agencies to return human remains and cultural items upon request.
Remains and cultural items recovered from private lands may be subject to NAGPRA if they are part of a holding or collection.
CC and URI are soliciting written requests for repatriation of the remains between now and September 5. Repatriation requests can be made by either the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe or the Mohegan Tribe, or by any lineal descendant or Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization that can show, by a preponderance of evidence, either lineal descent or cultural affiliation.
The remains were found in March 1981 during construction of a soccer field on CC’s campus. According to a notice soliciting repatriation requests in the Federal Register, the remains of an individual “interred in a substantial shell midden” were exposed and partially damaged by a bulldozer.
The remains were excavated by a CC professor of biology and transferred to URI, where a professor of biological anthropology was asked to collaborate with osteological research.
Based on the individual’s dental records and the context of their burial, the remains were determined to be of Native American descent. According to radiocarbon dating, the remains are from roughly 1620, give or take 70 years.
No funerary objects were covered alongside the remains.