What Is The Native American Grave Protection And Repatriation Act?

Created in 1990 for the purpose of protecting Indian, or Native American's remains and cultural objects. Information on tribes and affiliation.

The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was instigated in 1990 for the purpose of protecting human remains, funerary articles and other sacred objects that can be affiliated with a Native American tribe. According to NAGPRA, the definition of a burial site is that area above or below ground where human remains are placed. It defines cultural affiliation as a common identity between an earlier group and a present day Native American tribe. This Act makes it illegal to excavate or otherwise disturb funerary objects and remains that are found on Federal or Tribal land. If remains are found and a tribal affiliation is determined, then the tribe must be given the opportunity to claim the remains. If an affiliation is not determined or the tribe does not claim the remains, the Secretary of the Interior will be responsible for their distribution or reburial.

If such objects or remains are to be removed from Federal lands, a permit must be obtained and if there is an operation in progress, such as mining or construction, and the remains are unearthed, then all activities must stop until the appropriate tribe and authorities are notified. If a claim is not made by the tribe, then a permit for removal must be in place.

NAGPRA also states that all agencies and museums in possession of Native American remains and funerary objects must create an inventory of all collections containing these items and make every attempt to find out their cultural affiliations. The agency or museum must search through their existing collections and document all remains and funerary objects, then they need to notify the tribe that they are in possession of such objects. Should the tribe demand the return of all or part of the collections, then the agency or museum must relinquish the items to the tribe. Should the tribe make the decision not to claim the collections in whole or in part, then the agency or museum must contact the Secretary of the Interior for instructions.

The Act includes the punishment of fines or imprisonment for up to 12 months for selling or buying Native American remains and objects without having legal possession of the items. A second violation can bring up to a five year prison sentence and/or additional fines.

NAGPRA has provided for a review committee to be activated for the monitoring of the inventories and the cultural identification of collections. This committee is created by the Secretary of the Interior and is to be made up of seven members that are not Federal officers or employees. The committee is responsible for reviewing the accuracy and fairness of the inventory and identification process, and for returning any identified remains or collections to their rightful tribal affiliate. Should there be any complaints or problems arising from this process, the committee will act as overseer and mediator to assist with solutions.

The committee can consult with the Secretary of the Interior on legal matters arising from NAGPRA. The Secretary of the Interior can also be included in the process of creating any regulations necessary to carry out the purpose of the Act.

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