The Catholic University of America

Summary of Federal Laws

Miscellaneous Laws that Might Apply

Compliance Partners

University Archivist

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA)

25 U.S.C. § 3001 et seq.; 43 CFR Part 10

This law requires museums, which includes any institution of higher learning that receives federal funds, to identify by inventory by November 16, 1995, any holdings or collections of Native American human remains and associated funerary objects, and to the extent possible, identify the geographical and cultural affiliation of such items. If the cultural affiliation can be identified, the museum must notify the affected Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization. In addition, the museum must summarize any unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and cultural patrimony by November 16, 1993. Provisions are also included for the return to the tribe or known lineal descendant of the remains and associated funerary objects. A museum that fails to comply with the above is subject to a penalty to be assessed by the Secretary of the Interior.

Final Rule, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Regulations--Disposition of Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains, 75 Fed. Reg. 12377 March 15, 2010.
Effective May 14, 2010.

In brief, this rule pertains to those human remains, in collections, determined by museums and Federal agencies to be Native American, but for whom no relationship of shared group identity can be reasonably traced, historically or prehistorically, between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group. These individuals are listed on inventories as culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains.

The rule requires consultation on the culturally unidentifiable human remains by the museum or Federal agency with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations whose tribal lands or aboriginal occupancy areas are in the area where the remains were removed. If cultural affiliation still cannot be determined and repatriation achieved, then the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may request disposition of the remains. The museum or Federal agency would then publish a notice and transfer control to the tribe, without first being required to appear before the Review Committee to seek a recommendation for disposition approval from the Secretary of the Interior.



Department of the Interior's National Park Service NAGPRA website

See also the National Endowment for the Arts Guide to NAGPRA by Christopher D. Weston.This is a very thorough article written in 1999 about the history of NAGPRA, as well as the basics of the law. The article gives an overview of the meaning of the terms used in the law, explains the exceptions to the law, contains links to a wealth of resources (such as how to contact various Native America tribes) and also describes the inventory process required of museums. This is an excellent layman's guide to the law.


 updated 1-18-18 mlo















updated 3/30/10 by mlo to add 75 FR 12377