We hear an urgent call across the field of anthropology for institutional and professional accountability related to human remains in research collections, with special attention to standards and guidelines concerning the respectful care for graves, grave goods, and for osteological remains and genetic material of deceased African Americans and Native Americans that are housed in research collections at museums and academic institutions. The AAA Executive Board has established a two-year commission that will coordinate with work that is contemplated or underway in sister societies; complete a comprehensive survey of the current status of legislative, policy, and professional society standards and guidelines, as well as the ethical, legal, social, and scientific issues involved in eliminating the gap between the current status and model standards of institutional and professional accountability; and develop a proposed model of standards for adoption by the AAA.
Duration of Committee
24 months beginning December 2021
Committee Reports to
AAA Executive Board
- Review and assessment of the current status of relevant:
- legislative and policy proposals, such as the proposed African-American Burial Grounds Network Act; updated implementation policies pursuant to California’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act; proposed legislation modeled after the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act for African American graves.
- museum collection management standards and policies
- professional society ethical standards
- community-based initiatives and institutional/community collaborations
- Develop proposed model of standards for adoption by the AAA
- Host a workshop among sister societies to review proposed model standards and implications for training, systems strengthening (including inter-operability of catalogs and registries), capacity-building for community-based organizations
Membership and Appointment
- Michael L. Blakey (cochair), National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology, Africana Studies, and American Studies, Director of the Institute for Historical Biology, College of William & Mary.
- Deborah A. Thomas (cochair), R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania
- Sabrina C. Agarwal, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Thomas H. Champney, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy in the Department of Cell Biology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami.
- Carlina de la Cova, Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.
- Jenny L. Davis, Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
- Debra L. Martin, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
- Kisha Supernant, Director, Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, Codirector of the Situated Knowledges: Indigenous Peoples and Place (SKIPP) Signature Area, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta.
- Rachel Watkins, Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at American University.
- Terrance Weik, Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.
- Ezra Chan (assistant), Student at the University of Pennsylvania.
Report of findings and proposed model standards provided to the Executive Board by the November 2023 Executive Board meeting.
Meetings and Schedule
Monthly virtual meetings and as others as needed.
One in-person workshop, with extramural funding support from NSF.
One in-person meeting in Arlington in Summer, 2023 to review draft report.
American Anthropological Association, 2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 1301, Arlington, VA 22201, Phone: (703) 528-1902, Fax: (703) 528-3546