Report: Hundreds of indigenous remains housed at UTSA, Witte Museum despite federal law

UTSA official said they are trying to repatriate the remains to the rightful parties.

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UTSA currently houses 297 indigenous remains at its Center for Archaeological Research, according to Axios. - Courtesy / The University of Texas at San Antonio
Courtesy / The University of Texas at San Antonio
UTSA currently houses 297 indigenous remains at its Center for Archaeological Research, according to Axios.
Two San Antonio institutions are under fire for housing the remains of hundreds of indigenous people despite federal law requiring the bodies be returned to their tribes, Axios reports.

According to Axios, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Alamo City’s beloved Witte house a combined 367 bodies of Native Americans. UTSA’s Center for Archaeological Research holds the remains of 297 indigenous people, while the Witte Museum houses 70.

In 1990, the federal government passed a law requiring that the remains of indigenous people held by academic institutions be returned to their rightful owners. Even so, UTSA Chief of Communications Joe Izbrand told Axios that the public university is in compliance with federal law while it works to return the remains to the correct tribes.

“They are preserved with dignity and stored in a secure facility,” Izbrand told Axios. “It is our intention to repatriate all of the remains and objects to the rightful parties, and we are working methodically to facilitate their return, enabled in part by a grant from the National Park Service.”

As for the Witte, Axios reports that the 70 bodies held at the Brackenridge Park museum are not available for repatriation, which would, in theory, violate federal law.

"The Witte Museum has been actively working with the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan people and Aboriginal people of Texas to return these individuals to their ancestors," museum officials said in a statement supplied to the Current. "There is a plan in place to do this, and we are working closely with NAGPRA on that plan."

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