Oneida Indian Nation Homelands (August 2, 2023) The Oneida Indian Nation today joined the RMSC in a ceremony held in Rochester, New York, to repatriate the remains of 19 Oneida ancestors, as well as an assortment of funerary objects. This is the second such repatriation of ancestral remains from the museum’s collections to the Oneida people, following the restoration of the remains of 25 ancestors in 2000.

The ancestral remains repatriated at today’s event include five adult men, three adult women and two adolescent girls, all of who, along with additional ancestors who could not be identified in this way, lived during various periods of history between 200 and 3,000 years ago. These remains were disinterred during the museum’s excavations, donated to or purchased by the museum between 1928 and 1979, where they have remained ever since.

“Events like this allow us to move past these failures with a chance for cultural institutions to take accountability and make amends. They are a path to a future we can all take pride in, where Native people and their cultures are respected, our inclusion is valued and our dignity is unquestioned,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. “Today’s repatriation is so much more than the simple return of remains and cultural artifacts. It is an acknowledgment of these ancestors’ status as real people who lived rich lives and deserved dignity in life and death.”

During the ceremony, RMSC President Hillary Olson apologized for the museum’s acquisition of the Oneida people’s ancestral remains and cultural artifacts:

Today is a significant occasion as Museums, including the RMSC, recognize the trauma we have caused and participate in the creation of a more just future,” said Olson. “The RMSC has played a role in eroding Native American rights to dignity and self-determination. We have perpetuated harmful practices including the excavation, collection, study, and display of Native American ancestors and their belongings.

“RMSC archaeologists and others removed these 19 Oneida ancestors from their resting places, their communities, and their descendants. These individuals were placed in the Museum as early as 1928 and as recently as 1979, where they have been studied and documented. Today we acknowledge this unjust legacy of the past and take a small step toward repairing these harms by returning the ancestors and their belongings.”

After the repatriation ceremony concluded, President and Chief Executive Officer Olson and Representative Halbritter each signed transfer documents confirming receipt of the repatriated remains and funerary objects.

The event also included a traditional Oneida acknowledgment of the ancestors delivered by Oneida Indian Nation Member Dean Lyons (Turtle Clan). Stephanie Dickman, Rochester Museum & Science Center Board Chair, and Kathryn Murano Santos, Senior Director of Collections and Exhibits, also spoke at the event.

The Oneida Indian Nation is grateful for the RMSC partnership in the repatriation of these ancestral remains and for its commitment to devoting the time and resources required to righting the historic wrongs associated with the acquisition of Native Americans’ ancestral remains and cultural artifacts.

About the Oneida Indian Nation

The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian nation in Central New York. A founding member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (also known as the Six Nations or Iroquois Confederacy), the Oneida Indian Nation sided with the Americans in the Revolutionary War and was thanked by Congress and President George Washington for its loyalty and assistance. Today, the Oneida Indian Nation consists of about 1,000 enrolled Members, most of them living in Central New York. The Nation’s enterprises, which employ more than 4,500 people, include Turning Stone Resort Casino, YBR Casino & Sports Book, Point Place Casino, The Lake House at Sylvan Beach, The Cove at Sylvan Beach, Maple Leaf Markets, SāvOn Convenience stores, RV Park, and marinas. Proceeds from these enterprises are used to rebuild the Nation’s economic base and provide essential services, including housing, health care, and education incentives and programs, to its Members.

Media Contact:

Joel Barkin, Vice President of Communications
Oneida Indian Nation