Tony Platt: UC and Native Americans -- Unsettled RemainsRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: Native Americans, University of California, LA Times, San Jose State University, Tony Platt
Tony Platt is a visiting professor of justice studies at San Jose State University and the author of "Grave Matters: Excavating California's Buried Past."
In 1974, Berkeley's distinguished anthropologist Robert Heizer issued a public mea culpa for the practices of his profession in treating "California Indians as though they were objects." In particular, he apologized for the "continued digging up of the graves of their ancestors."
In 1999, the department of anthropology at Berkeley issued an apology to the cultural descendants of Ishi, a Yahi native, for sending his brain to the Smithsonian after his death in 1916. "We regret our department's role in what happened to Ishi, a man who had already lost all that was dear to him."
This was a good beginning to a journey of accountability and reconciliation. But since then, the University of California has been largely silent about its role as the legal owner of a vast collection of native remains stashed in basements in campuses throughout the state. It owes at the very least 10,000 more apologies....