On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, several Oneida Indian Nation Members gathered for a repatriation event at Cornell University in Ithaca. NY. The university returned the remains of three Oneida ancestors – one adult male and two youth. Those remains were kept illegally by a former professor in the university’s anthropology department for decades. After a recent archival inventory, Cornell reached out to the Oneida Indian Nation, in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), to begin the process of returning the remains as soon as possible.
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter spoke of the importance of repatriation events and cooperative relationships with our neighbors. It is a recognition of our sovereignty and a declaration that our people are not relics.
“The return of our ancestors to our sacred homelands is a basic human right,” Halbritter said. “We commend Cornell University for working with the Oneida Indian Nation to right this wrong. The repatriation of our ancestors’ remains enables us to honor their lives and honor the ways that our people have lived by since time immemorial.
“Each time the remains of our ancestors and our cultural artifacts are returned to us in this way, we take another step forward in a long journey toward recognition of our sovereignty as a nation and our dignity as people,” he said.
Dean Lyons (Turtle Clan) began the solemn occasion with words in the Onyota’a:ka: language welcoming the lost ancestors back to their homelands.
Funerary objects that were interred with the ancestors were restored to the Oneida People as well.
Watch a brief video recap HERE.