Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

NAGPRA is an act (Public law 101-601) designed to protect the artifacts and burial sites, primarily on tribal lands. Artifacts that are repatriable include human remains of Native American ancestry, funerary artifacts, and sacred artifacts. It also protects ancient artifact whose counterparts are still used in modern Native American ritual.

NAGPRA only applies to public museums, and governmental agencies. Private Colleges, as well as Colleges that are Publicly funded do not fall under the act's jurisdiction. The Smithsonian Institution is specifically exempt from the effects of this act.

Native American tribes that wish to reclaim artifacts from museums must go through a painstaking process of identifying and proving their ownership of said artifact.

The actual text of the act is too laden with bureaucratic jargon and afflicted with extreme long-windedness to print here. A small exerpt is provided below:

  1. Native American human remains and objects. The ownership or control of Native American cultural items which are excavated or discovered on Federal or tribal lands after the date of enactment of this Act [enacted Nov. 16, 1990] shall be (with priority given in the order listed)--
    1. in the case of Native American human remains and associated funerary objects, in the lineal descendants of the Native American; or
    2. in any case in which such lineal descendants cannot be ascertained, and in the case of unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony--
      1. in the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization on whose tribal land such objects or remains were discovered;
      2. in the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization which has the closest cultural affiliation with such remains or objects and which, upon notice, states a claim for such remains or objects; or

  • if the cultural affiliation of the objects cannot be reasonably ascertained and if the objects were discovered on Federal land that is recognized by a final judgment of the Indian Claims Commission or the United States Court of Claims [United States Court of Federal Claims] as the aboriginal land of some Indian tribe--
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