Report: Harvard Has Remains Of 7,000 Native Americans, 19 Possible Slaves

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — A new report says Harvard's Museums and collections may have the remains of almost 7,000 Native Americans and 19 enslaved people in its possession.

That information comes from an unpublished draft report from the university's "Steering Committee on Human Remains in Harvard Museum Collections," obtained by the Harvard Crimson.

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow demanded an investigation when it first came to light that university museums were housing the remains of more than 22,000 individuals in January 2021.

The paper says the draft report contains recommendations to the university, including accelerating the return of the Native American remains to their communities, which has been required since 1990 under federal law.

The original statement by Bacow identified 15 people of African descent who were probably alive during the time of slavery — the paper says this unpublished draft had updated numbers, saying the Committee had found the remains of 19 likely slaves.

The Steering Committee chair, Professor Evelynn Hammonds, blasted the paper for publishing the draft report, saying "It is deeply frustrating that the Harvard Crimson chose to release an initial and incomplete draft report," and that doing so is "irresponsible reporting" that jeopardizes "thoughtful engagement of the Harvard community." She also said the draft was "outdated."

Harvard Director of Media Relations Rachael Dane said the leak was a non-issue.

"Someone leaked a draft report from the Committee – that’s all. We will announce the final work of the Committee when we are ready. Not sure how this is news to anyone other than the Crimson – who think this is like a Supreme Court leak," she said in an email.

This article was updated with comment from Harvard University.

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