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UF grant to assist in tribe’s repatriation efforts

The NPS grants are designed to assist in NAGPRA-related work. (

The National Park Service (NPS) on Aug. 7 announced $3.4 million in grants to tribes, museums and universities in order to assist in the consultation, documentation and repatriation of ancestral remains and cultural items as part of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

NPS said it is the largest amount appropriated for NAGPRA grants since the 1990 law’s funding program began in 1994. The national NAGPRA program is administered by NPS, which is a bureau of the Department of the Interior.

The grants were divided into two categories: repatriation grants and consultation/documentation grants. The University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville was a recipient of the latter for $100,000. The school holds the remains of thousands of Native American ancestors – the 11th largest holding in the U.S.

Ellie Stuckrath of NPS public affairs said the UF board of trustees would use the money to establish cultural affiliations of “ancestral human remains, funerary belongings, sacred belongings, and items of cultural patrimony,” toward determining a final disposition. She said the project would focus on holdings from 14 sites in St. Johns, Duval, and Nassau counties in northeast Florida.

The UF holdings are of interest to the Seminole Tribe and those who work on repatriation efforts in the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO).

“We are working collaboratively with UF on all of their Florida repatriation efforts,” Domonique deBeaubien, THPO collections manager, said. “This grant will assist them with their inventory process, which we will then use in consultation.”

Domonique deBeaubien (Courtesy photo)

deBeaubien, who was named to the NAGPRA federal advisory committee for a four-year term late last year, said the UF collection is very large, so it breaks consultation down into smaller, more manageable regions – NPS’ reference to “14 sites.” She said many such large collections aren’t well documented, so the grant will help the school gain a better understanding of what is being housed so it can better consult with THPO officials.

“Sometimes these grants will lead to the actual adjustment of known ancestors in their collections,” deBeaubien said. “As they conduct their inventory, which means physically going through a collection box by box, they will discover additional ancestors.”

deBeaubien explained that adjustments become necessary when collections are old and poorly documented or were counted incorrectly. For example, a student might have done an initial assessment poorly, she said.

“Other times they are able to inventory what we call faunal bone, or fragmentary animal bone, that comes from most archaeological sites,” deBeaubien said. “It’s fairly common that fragmentary ancestral remains are comingled with the faunal bone, but most institutions have never had the funding or a specialist to actually check.”

deBeaubien said when an inventory is redone, a specialist can review the faunal bone piece by piece. If additional ancestors were discovered, the previously known number would increase.

More information is at

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at