The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law in 1990; regulations implementing the statute were completed and went into effect in January 1996. The law formally affirms the rights of Indian tribes, Native Alaskan entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations to custody of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony with which they have a relationship of cultural affiliation. NAGPRA gives even stronger custody rights to lineal descendants when such a close relationship can be documented.
As a federal agency that manages public land and cares for public collections containing Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, the National Park Service (NPS) must comply with NAGPRA. Park NAGPRA is the national program that oversees NAGPRA compliance within NPS. The program provides technical advice, guidance, and training to all national park sites throughout the United States.
As of January, 2013, NPS has published Notices of Inventory Completion describing Native American human remains representing at minimum 4,459 individuals, 3,834 of whom have been repatriated, and 84,693 associated funerary objects, 39,103 of which have been repatriated. In addition, NPS has published Notices of Intent to Repatriate describing 3,382 unassociated funerary objects, 3,374 of which have been repatriated, 2,558 sacred objects, 2,546 of which have been repatriated, 2 objects of cultural patrimony, both of which have been repatriated, and 22 objects determined to be both sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony, all of which have been repatriated.
Sources of Information
- Guidance for NPS Compliance with NAGPRA (NPS Cultural Resource Management Guideline, Appendix R)
- “The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)” a summary article from Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia, edited by Linda Ellis, Garland Publishing Co., 2000.
- Final Regulations, 43 CFR 10
- Disposition of Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains, 43 CFR 10.11
- Future Applicability, 43 CFR 10.13