What is NAGPRA?
NAGPRA is an acronym for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013) describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, referred to collectively in the statute as cultural items, with which they can show a relationship of lineal descent or cultural affiliation. One major purpose of this statute (Sections 5-7) is to require that Federal agencies and museums receiving Federal funds inventory holdings of Native American human remains and funerary objects and provide written summaries of other cultural items. The agencies and museums must consult with Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to attempt to reach agreements on the repatriation or other disposition of these remains and objects. Once lineal descent or cultural affiliation has been established, and in some cases, the right of possession also has been demonstrated, lineal descendants, affiliated Indian Tribes, or affiliated Native Hawaiian organizations normally make the final determination about the disposition of cultural items.
The second major purpose of the statute is to provide greater protection for Indigenous burial sites and more careful control over the removal of Indigenous human remains funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony on Federal and tribal lands. NAGPRA requires that Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations be consulted whenever archeological investigations encounter or are expected to encounter, Native American cultural items or when such items are unexpectedly discovered on Federal or tribal lands. Excavation or removal of any such items also must be done under procedures required by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (Sec. 3 (c)(1)). This NAGPRA requirement is likely to encourage the in situ preservation of archaeological sites, or at least the portions of them that contain burials or other kinds of cultural items. In many situations, it will be advantageous for Federal agencies and Tribes undertaking land-modifying activities on their lands to undertake careful consultations with traditional users of the land and intensive archeological surveys to locate and then protect unmarked Native American graves, cemeteries, or other places where cultural items might be located.
Executing the provisions of NAGPRA involves three primary participants: Federal agencies, all museums receiving Federal funds (including State, local, and private institutions), and Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Oversight of and directions for the activities required of these three types of organizations are to be provided by the Secretary of the Interior and the NAGPRA Review Committee established by the statute.
The kinds of remains and the artifacts covered by provisions of the statute are: (1) human remains and associated funerary objects; (2) unassociated funerary objects; (3) sacred objects; and (4) objects of cultural patrimony.