On November 16, 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Final regulations were published on December 4, 1995. The law and regulations address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. They require Federal agencies and institutions that receive Federal funds to provide information about Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations and, upon presentation of a valid request, return these cultural items to them.

The National Park Service – like all Federal agencies except the Smithsonian Institution – is required to comply with the regulations. Repatriation at the Smithsonian is governed by the National Museum of the American Indian Act of 1989, 20 U.S.C. 80q et seq. Park superintendents are responsible for

  • notifying and consulting with lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding intentional excavations and inadvertent discoveries on NPS lands;
  • completing summaries of Native American collections in their control that might include unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony;
  • completing inventories of human remains and associated funerary objects;
  • evaluating requests for repatriation;
  • making decisions about the repatriation/disposition of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony under NPS control.

This appendix provides guidelines for National Park Service (NPS) park, center, and regional compliance with the statute and regulations. Compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is achieved by implementation of the law [25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.] and the applicable regulations [43 CFR Part 10].

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Guidance for National Park Service Compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

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