A project being conducted in collaboration with the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Geography & GIS, and the American Indian Studies Program was recently awarded funding by the UIUC Institute of Government and Public Affairs Research Scholar Initiative.

Over the next two years, the multidisciplinary research team will evaluate the intersection of Illinois state-funded agencies and laws addressing human skeletal remains in a data-driven policy initiative. The research team consists of faculty, staff, and graduate students at UIUC, including Dr. Cris Hughes, Dr. Jenny Davis, Dr. Marynia Kolak, Krystiana Krupa, Arielle Reich, and Catherine Discenza.

In December 2023, the first official governmental rule was published that explicitly included medical examiner and coroner’s offices (MECOs) as potential institutions that should be considering NAGPRA. Because state laws regarding the handling of human skeletal remains vary, this project is designed to assess how Illinois state-funded agencies are navigating the intersection of state and federal law by examining state-level policy and protocols.

This project aims to determine how Native American Ancestors move through the Illinois medicolegal pipeline in order to help promote effective and efficient repatriation.

The multidisciplinary team covers experience needed to address nuanced aspects of this project, from NAGPRA policy to forensic anthropology. The team plans to promote data sharing of research findings through an interactive web mapping application using open-source GIS technologies, which will be developed using a human centered design approach to support assessment and data sharing efforts across multiple institutional partners.

To support this initiative, a Healthy Regions & Policies Lab team, including director and assistant professor of geography Dr. Marynia Kolak and first-year master's student Catherine Discenza, will provide training and support application implementation.

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