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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The Texan Recap: Lunar New Year, repatriation of Indigenous remains

Editor’s note: This podcast was originally published on Spotify on Feb. 11, 2024. 

In this episode of The Texan Recap, Senior Audio Producer Jack Lewellyn chats about the UT Ancestral Appreciation and Culture Committee’s Lunar New Year celebration, and The Miakan-Garza Band continues to send in requests for the repatriation of remains that UT has not yet returned.

Reported by Joey Clark and Aaron Sullivan. Hosted by Jack Lewellyn. Edited by Amrutha Mummidi. Cover art by Emma Berke. Music by Top Flow Productions.


*upbeat music*


Jack: UT celebrates the Lunar New Year right here on campus …and a Native band sends a new request during an 8-year-long wait for Indigenous remains held by the university.


I’m your host this week, Jack Lewellyn, and this is The Texan Recap.


Here’s what you missed this week.


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Jack: The UT Ancestral Appreciation and Culture Committee recently hosted a Lunar New Year celebration right here on campus. General Life & Arts Reporter Joey Clark is here with the story. Thanks for being here, Joey.


Joey: Thanks so much for having me.


Jack: To start us off, what exactly is the UT Ancestral Appreciation and Culture Committee?


Joey: So the UT Ancestral Appreciation and Culture Committee is well, originally, it was the Asian American Culture Committee. Yeah.


They’re basically just the committee part of the Events and Entertainment club here at UT. Uh, they do a bunch of, I guess, Asian American-type culture events. So they do the CultivAsian.


Yeah, so they kinda gather the Asian American, uh, community together. You know, fun and interesting parts of Asian culture, uh, with, you know, the community here at UT. 


Jack: Excellent. Uh, could you tell me more about the Lunar New Year celebration itself?


Joey: Yeah. Absolutely. So it was, uh, basically a huge event that they put on all sorts of student performances with, Like martial arts demonstrations, K-Pop dance groups, all sorts of dance crews, and they had tons of food there as well. So they had pork dumplings, chow mein, And, uh, the whole, like, the ballroom was kinda, like, lined with a bunch of different student groups that were also tabling there, and, uh, they had a bunch of different little traditions and games that you could try out. I just did yeah. Just get an idea of, like, how many different cultures, like, kinda contribute to the idea of Lunar New Year because I think a big misconception about it is that people call it, you know, Chinese New Year. There’s actually like, a lot of different Asian cultures celebrated too.


Jack: Uh, I know you spoke to the committee’s event coordinator. What were some of the things they told you?


Joey: Yeah. So they just talked about how you pull an event like this together, like, uh, you know, considering how many people, you know, have to come together to put together the event.


You have to communicate with, um, you know, the student groups. They make the performances, making sure that they’re ready and they, you know, answer all their questions as well. And then also the catering and event, it can be a huge, like, headache too as well. So, Yeah. So we talked about that. And then also, you know, what I mentioned earlier too, like, how do you cover the whole Pan Asian traditions and make sure everyone feels represented?


So I think that Leslie, the event coordinator, I think it was a big, like, really important to her that everyone feels represented and welcomed at the event. And honestly, that definitely paid off. It was definitely, um, just a really dynamic and vibrant, uh, atmosphere. 


Jack: In your article, you also mentioned some other organizations you talked with. What did you learn about what they do?


Joey: Yeah. So I talked with the Texas Diabolo Association, which is a diapolo is a Chinese yo-yo. I talked with Texas Wushu. So I’ll talk about, I guess, Texas Wushu first. They’re a Chinese martial arts group as well, and so, they train together and then, you know, put on these performances as well.


They had, um, a big line dancing element. And so I talked to, uh, one of the members, and he’d actually donated one of the lion heads to kind of get them into doing lion dancing as well. And it was clear to me that he had also, like, kinda grown up around, like, lion dancing as well. Like, I think it’s one of the most, like, central parts of, like, Lunar New Year in people’s heads. I mean, it’s most exciting as well because they really get into the crowd and everybody gets into it as well.


And the group said that we’re there, like, we’re throwing, like, prizes out of the lion’s mouth. I don’t think there’s, like, anything really like lion dancing In maybe American culture because it goes back so far in the tradition. So it’s something that people have been doing for centuries. And so to carry on like a tradition, I think, is very, very important to people. Uh, is I could definitely tell that it was very, uh, very exhilarating and, um, like, special experience for them.


And then I also talked with the Texas Diabolo Association. And, yeah, I always see them practicing with their yo-yos, um, on Speedway. And I talked with the founder and president of the club, and she was very, very, very passionate and very, uh, very nice person. So I learned a lot about, like, Chinese yo-yos, like the different kinds you can buy, like the ones that light up that you can do one, two, three at, like, a single time. And you could tell when people are performing, like, how much they love it.


They would have, like, huge smiles on their faces, and it was just, like, so so exciting, especially for, like, the crowd, like, kinda giving back to them, like, the energy that they were putting out to the crowd as well. So it was, yeah, just really, really great to see.


Jack: Well, I think that about does it. That was General Life & Arts Reporter Joey Clark. Thanks again for being here.


Joey: Thank you so much for having me.


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Jack: The Miakan-Garza Band continues to send in requests for the repatriation of remains that UT has not yet returned. Senior News Reporter Aaron Sullivan is here to tell us all about it. Thanks for joining me, Aaron.


Aaron: Thanks for having me.


Jack: To begin, uh, could you tell me about the Miakan-Garza band? What exactly are they? 


Aaron: Yeah. So they’re a group it’s actually, like, a few families that are from the Central Texas area. They’re a state-recognized tribe, um, based mainly in San Marcos. And, um, more specifically, they’re a band of people from the Coahuiltecan people who lived in Texas and northeastern Mexico when the Spaniards first arrived here.


Jack: Why does the Miakan-Garza band want these remains? 


Aaron: So first and foremost, they want the remains so that they can rebury them. One of my sources said that the Miakan-Garza believe that the physical and the spiritual processes that happen after death are kind of interrupted when remains are, exhumed or disturbed. Um, but another thing is, like, the Miakan-Garza also believe that these remains are their tribe’s ancestors. 


Dr. Mario Garza from the Miakan-Garza, he’s one of the people from the tribe. Um, he said that they have very specific ways of burying their dead. They bury them in the fetal position facing the east. Um, and so these remains that UT has in their collection were buried that way. Another thing about these remains is that they’re over a thousand years old, and, uh, Garza said that the Miakan-Garza Band was the only tribe near San Marcos when this burial happened. 


Jack: Now you go over the, uh, Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act in your story. Could you explain what that is?


Aaron: Yeah. So the act is more colloquially known as NAGPRA. It came into effect in 1990, and it basically regulates, um, indigenous remains and artifacts that are found on public lands in the United States.


It’s a federal law, so any institution that receives any sort of federal funding must comply with its standards. Um, and so institutions like museums and universities essentially have to work within certain guidelines to facilitate any requests for remains that these tribes are requesting. And just last month, actually, there were a few new changes that gave these tribes more authority and more of a presence in these repatriation, um, cases. 


Jack: Now in your article, you also explain why UT hasn’t yet given them these remains. Could you tell me about that?


Aaron: Yeah. So the Miakan-Garza actually made their first request for these remains back in 2016. And then the next major development was from the university side. They wrote a letter to the tribe in 2020, kind of giving two main reasons why they weren’t gonna return the remains. So first, some federally recognized tribes in Texas objected to the Miakan-Garza’s request, and the university said they kinda have to consider those requests as a part of their decision on whether or not to return the remains.


The interesting thing about that though is that, like, most of these federally recognized tribes that are objecting don’t actually want the remains. Like, um, they’re not saying, like, oh, well, we want them over the Miakan-Garza. Dr. Garza, the person who I interviewed from the tribe, he basically said that, um, some of these federally recognized tribes are just objecting to push around, um, the non-federally recognized tribes like the Miakan-Garza. The second reason that the university gave was that they couldn’t culturally identify the remains as belonging to Miakan-Garza ancestors. Um, and this is also kind of interesting given the assertion that the Miakan-Garza have given that They were the only tribe in this part of Texas at this time and the very specific way that they bury their people and the way that these remains were found. 


Jack: Now you had mentioned talking to a member of the tribe and sort of, like, their indigenous culture institute and whatnot. Uh, so what else did they say? 


Aaron: So it’s actually kinda interesting. The Indigenous Culture Institute has been successful in the past in getting these requests, getting the remains actually back to them. Texas State University in San Marcos actually repatriated remains to them back in 2011.


Whenever they receive repatriated remains. They have a new reburial ceremony that kinda draws upon their traditional Miakan-Garza burial practices, And they actually rebury a lot of the remains that they get repatriated to them at a reburial site in San Marcos. And kind of the biggest thing that stuck out to me in my reporting, um, Dr. Garza, my main source, he essentially said that NAGPRA, the federal law that regulates this, has some serious flaws that allow institutions like The University of Texas to find loopholes just kind of letting them kick this can down the road for as long as they can.


Jack: That was Senior News Reporter Aaron Sullivan. Thanks so much again for your time.


Aaron: Thanks for having me, Jack.


Jack: And that’s The Texan Recap for the week of February 5th. I’m Jack Lewellyn.


*upbeat music*


Jack: The Texan Recap is a production of The Daily Texan Audio Department.


If you liked this episode, make sure to subscribe to The Daily Texan on your streaming platform of choice and follow us on Twitter @texanaudio. 


This episode was hosted and supervised by me, Jack Lewellyn, and edited by Amrutha Mummidi. 


Special thanks to Joey Clark and Aaron Sullivan for their reporting and to Joelle Dipaolo, Mimi Calzada and Chloe Moore for contributing to this project. 


Cover art is by Emma Berke and music is by Top Flow Productions. To read the news stories in this episode or see more from the Texan, head on over to 


Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next week

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