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Witte Museum receives Department of Interior approval to proceed with the reinterment of Aboriginal individuals

Art Martinez de Vara, Marise McDermott, Ramon Vasquez, Linda Ximenes and Dr. Jennifer Barron, representatives from the Witte Museum and Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation, at the June 2023 NAPGRA Review Committee meeting.

SAN ANTONIO, TX (August 14, 2023)—Representatives from the Witte Museum recently requested approval from the NAGPRA Review Committee to reinter Aboriginal individuals in their ancestral lands in West Texas. Following the presentation, the Review Committee unanimously agreed with the Witte Museum’s request, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland subsequently concurred with the Review Committee’s recommendation and gave the Witte permission to proceed with the reinterment.

“The Witte Museum has long researched and documented the evidence of the first people of what we now call Texas,” said Marise McDermott, President and CEO. “As much as it is a privilege to share the lifeways of these extraordinary people with the children and families who come to the Witte Museum, we know that this information comes with a cost that must be repaid.”

The Witte Museum has been actively working with the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation during the NAGPRA reinterment request process. Tāp Pīlam representatives were in attendance at the presentation to the Review Committee and expressed their support and appreciation to the Committee.

“I would like to thank the Witte Museum for the mutual commitment with the Tāp Pīlam Tribal Community in working for the promotion, preservation and education of Texas Indigenous first people’s historical and cultural sacred sites,” said Raymond Hernandez, Tāp Pīlam Nation Tribal Council Member. “Honoring those who contributed, lived, fought and died will result in the proper respect for human remains and preservation of their final resting place with an acknowledgment of their contributions to the State of Texas for all future generations.”

The Witte Museum has been in consultation since the 1990s with the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation as well as numerous Native American tribes that arrived in Texas historically. In 2013, NAGPRA issued an amendment that addressed Aboriginal people and those that are culturally, geographically and temporarily connected. This amendment has enabled the museum to move forward with the long-planned reinterment.