Dozens of Native American remains found on University of North Dakota campus

University of North Dakota campus is seen in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
University of North Dakota campus is seen in Grand Forks, North Dakota.(Valley News Live)
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 8:30 AM CDT
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (KVLY/Gray News) - The University of North Dakota’s President Andrew Armacost said the university found Native American remains in a closet on campus earlier this year.

Armacost said on Wednesday the discovery was made while looking for a missing sacred item on campus. He estimated that there are dozens of remains.

Including other sacred artifacts, the university has found more than 250 boxes with Native American belongings on the university campus, KVLY reported.

“Coming on the heels of other recent revelations about historic wrongs inflicted on Indigenous people in the United States and Canada, members of our tribal communities in the region will undoubtedly be deeply affected by this news from UND. While I cannot take away their pain, I can apologize on behalf of UND for our mistakes,” Armacost said.

He said the school immediately reached out to representatives from area tribes, collaborating with them and seeking advice for more than four months to “... make certain this work is done correctly.” In a recent visit to the campus, tribal leaders blessed spaces where the ancestors and sacred items were stored and found.

Armacost said the response from each tribal representative has been common: “Anger, sadness, acceptance of our apologies and appreciation that we are involving them from the outset of this work.”

They said their goal is to work diligently until all ancestors and sacred objects are returned home, no matter how long it takes. University officials are now working to connect ancestors and artifacts with their places of origin and are hiring experts to help.

Armacost said the sacred items will be returned in a manner consistent with the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act, involving tribal nations, as well as federal and state agencies.

Students on the campus were taken aback at the finding.

“That’s the craziest part is that remains were found. It wasn’t just objects found, and that’s just wild to think about,” said Haiden Huschka, a freshman.

Another freshman, Riley Schreiner added, “We’re just finding out about them now, and you have no clue who that could be or the significance of that person back in their time.”

“I never would have expected it to happen. I’m not Indigenous, but I imagine for those Indigenous folk it’s more unsettling than for others,” stated sophomore Max Taylor.

Some Indigenous faculty and students gathered together to watch the virtual presser. While they declined to comment, the emotion could be felt in the room.

Wednesday’s announcement brought shock, with many sharing hopes that the artifacts and ancestral remains are returned to their respective tribes.

Professor Doug McDonald runs the university’s Indians into Psychology Doctoral Education program, and he and his team are available with counseling services in support of Native American students, faculty and staff. The University Counseling Center is also providing support to students.

The university has launched a repatriation webpage that explains its repatriation process to date. It also includes an email address,, for repatriation-related questions.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum released a statement Wednesday, saying in part: “We are heartbroken by the deeply insensitive treatment of these Indigenous ancestral remains and artifacts and extend our deepest apologies to the sovereign tribal nations in North Dakota and beyond. This dark chapter, while extremely hurtful, also presents an opportunity to enhance our understanding and respect for Indigenous cultures and to become a model for the nation by conducting this process with the utmost deference to the wishes, customs and traditions of tribal nations.”