SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed three bills on Friday that will increase protections for Native American communities around the state.

The bills include protections for remains, clothing and history, according to Native News Online. The three bills are:

  • HB3413: Includes new procedures in the Human Remains Protection Act for when Native remains or gravesites are found, as well as identifying remains’ tribal identity with the Illinois State Museum before returning them to appropriate burial.
  • SB1446: Protects students’ rights to wear accessories at graduation ceremonies that reflect their heritage.
  • HB1633: Native American history will now be required curriculum for Illinois public schools, focusing on teaching about the genocide and forced resettlement of Native peoples.

“Illinois has made tremendous strides this year in its work to repair the centuries-long injustices that started with colonizers doing everything they could to extinguish our people and the origins of this land on which the U.S was constructed,” Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Chairman Joseph Rupnick said. “Illinois today proved that a government is capable of reflecting on its past injustices and planning for a future that respects and celebrates our interconnectedness.” 

The Illinois State Museum as the “3rd largest collection of unrepatriated Native American remains in the U.S.,” ProPublica said. The institution reported still having the remains of over 7,100 Native Americans that have not yet been made available to return to tribes.

Native News Online said that Illinois is the only state in the Midwest, as well as only one of 15 states across the country, to not have a federally recognized Native tribe. However, it is the home of about 35,000 Native Americans, sitting on ancestral lands of many different tribes.

“Although our land was illegally taken from us, we’re still here, living and contributing to life in Illinois, all while practicing our traditions and serving our country,” Rupnick said. “We may not yet have our Reservation land back in the hands of our tribe, but we have the truth and increasing acknowledgement that our cause is just.” 

Rupnick thanked Pritzker for bringing respect to Native Americans that have gone.

“Native tribes have existed since before colonization, and our land and culture are the foundation of our society. Yet the remains of thousands of our ancestors have been in the hands of the government and institutions, just as our Native lands have been for centuries,” he said. “By signing this bill today Pritzker is undoing a modern-day extension of colonization. This new law will bring respect to our ancestors the way they should’ve been respected centuries ago.”