The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) databases list more than 7 million Culturally Unidentifiable Inventoried (CUI) Native American remains of our ancestors that have been unearthed over the years and are kept in “collections” by universities, museums, and federal and state departments. This has happened in a country where it is against the law to disturb a human grave.
As of 2015, the remains of 3,454 ancestors were removed from our Texas sacred grounds. Our obligation, as native people, as Texas Indians, is to obtain possession of these ancestral remains and rebury them as close as possible to where they were unearthed.
Dr. Mario Garza, Cultural Preservation Officer for the Miakan-Garza Band of the Coahuiltecan people and Maria Rocha, Executive Director of the Indigenous Cultures Institute speak to UT Student Government about the four-year struggle to retrieve three ancestral remains from the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Archeological Research Laboratory for reburial.
In December 2011 Texas State University unearthed the remains of a 25-year-old man buried over 1,200 years ago. The remains had been buried near what is now the Meadows Center ticket booth, close to the shores of the Sacred Springs in Spring Lake, San Marcos, Texas. The body had been deliberately and lovingly buried in the fetal position, with the head facing east, and a ring of rocks circling the grave.
Texas State University and the Miakan-Garza Band went through the process established by the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in order to transfer the remains to the tribe for reburial. On March 24, 2016 Texas State University gave the remains to the Miakan-Garza for reburial. The following week on April 2 – 3, the tribe conducted an all-night Coahuiltecan repatriation ceremony (photo left), but were unable to bury the remains immediately.
On September 6, 2016 the City of San Marcos executed a memo of understanding with the Indigenous Cultures Institute, acting on behalf of the Miakan-Garza Band of the Coahuiltecan people, establishing the first Texas city repatriation burial ground. The burial site was specifically designated for ancient Native American remains unearthed from Hays County. On November 11, 2016, the reburial ground, with a majestic, rounded, wrought iron fence contributed by Texas State University, was ready for the first repatriation ceremony which was conducted on May 6, 2017. (photo left.) The second repatriation of six remains, conducted by Texas State University took place on March 14, 2020.