UTSA among several Texas universities in possession of Native American remains


Dustin Vickers

The Center for Archeological Research, located at UTSA’s Main Campus, continues to house Native American remains.

Mason Hickok, Editor-in-Chief

Despite a 1990 federal law from the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), several Texas universities, including UTSA, have the remains and cultural items of Native American tribes. 

According to a report from Axios, the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) at UTSA holds 297 remains, the fourth-largest collection of unrepatriated remains in Texas. Of the entirety of the collection, 294 remains have not been made available for return, while three have, according to data from ProPublica

In a statement to The Paisano, UTSA’s Chief Communication Officer Joe Izbrand commented on the steps CAR is taking to comply with federal law.

“The remains and objects that are in the care of UTSA were recovered decades ago from archaeological excavations by the university or donated to the university from other institutions and private entities,” Izbrand said. “They are preserved with dignity and stored in a secure facility. 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. This is a complex procedure, established through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and we are in full compliance with the federal law.”

Upon entering the Main Campus’ 78249 zip code into the open-source program Native Land Digital, four tribes are listed as having lived on the land within the zip code.  

While it remains unclear what specific tribes the remains and objects in CAR’s collection belong to, a summary of CAR’s process for repatriation notes that “191 of those unaffiliated remains are associated with a single archaeological site in Live Oak County—a legacy collection from excavations associated with the expansion of Highway 281 in the 1970s.”

 On UTSA’s 50th anniversary page is a brief mention of artifacts — believed to be from the Tonkawa people — that were excavated on the East side of campus, near the intersection of UTSA Boulevard and Valero Way. 

More information regarding the steps that are required to be taken under NAGPRA can be found here.