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H.R. 5237 (101st): Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act


The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law enacted on 16 November 1990.

The Act requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American "cultural items" to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Cultural items include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. A program of federal grants assists in the repatriation process and the Secretary of the Interior may assess civil penalties on museums that fail to comply.

NAGPRA also establishes procedures for the inadvertent discovery or planned excavation of Native American cultural items on federal or tribal lands. While these provisions do not apply to discoveries or excavations on private or state lands, the collection provisions of the Act may apply to Native American cultural items if they come under the control of an institution that receives federal funding.

Lastly, NAGPRA makes it a criminal offense to traffic in Native American human remains without right of possession or in Native American cultural items obtained in violation of the Act. Penalties for a first offense may reach 12 months imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.

This summary is from Wikipedia.

Last updated Oct 11, 2018. Source: Wikipedia

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.


10/26/1990--Passed Senate amended. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act - Provides for the ownership or control of Native American cultural items (human remains and objects) excavated or discovered on Federal or tribal lands. Vests ownership or control of human remains and associated funerary objects: (1) in the lineal descendants of the Native American; or (2) if the lineal descendants cannot be ascertained, or the funerary objects and so forth are unassociated, in the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization on whose land the remains or objects were located, or which has the closest cultural affiliation with the remains or objects (and makes claim for them), or, if the land was Federal, in the Indian tribe recognized as aborginally occupying the area (unless a different tribe, by preponderance of the evidence, makes a stronger claim). Provides for disposition of unclaimed Native American cultural items according to regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior. Allows the intentional removal from or excavation of Native American cultural items from Federal or tribal lands for discovery or study only with a permit and after consultation with (in the case of Federal lands), or (in the case of tribal lands) the consent of, the appropriate tribe or Native Hawaiian organization. Requires any person who knowingly discovers Native American human remains, funerary or sacred objects, or objects of inalienable communal property on Federal or tribal lands to notify the Federal entity authorized to manage such lands and the appropriate Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization. Requires such person, if the discovery occurred in connection with an activity, to cease the activity in the area of discovery, make a reasonable effort to protect such items, and provide notice to the tribe or organization. Permits the activity to resume after a reasonable amount of time following such notification. Allows the governing body of an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization expressly to relinquish control over any Native American human remains or title to or control over any funerary or sacred objects. Prohibits the purchase, sale, use for profit, or transport for sale or profit of Native American human remains or cultural objects obtained without the right of possession to such objects. Prescribes criminal penalties for violations. Directs Federal agencies and museums with possession or control over holdings or collections of Native American human remains and funerary objects to inventory them, identify their geographic and cultural affiliation, and notify the affected Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organization. Requires each Federal agency or museum with possession or control over such holdings or collections to provide a written summary of unassociated objects. Provides that if the cultural affiliation with a particular Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization is established, the entity with possession or control over such items, upon request, shall expedite the return of such items unless they are needed to complete a specific scientific study, in which case the items shall be returned after the completion of the study. Provides that when such a request is made, the burden shall be upon the appropriate entity to prove by a preponderance of the evidence their right to possess such items. Directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish a committee to: (1) monitor and review the implementation of such inventory and identification process and repatriation activities; (2) facilitate resolution of disputes relating to the return of remains and objects; (3) consult with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations on matters within the scope of the work of the committee; and (4) compile an inventory of unidentifiable human remains in the possession or control of Federal agencies and museums and recommend specific actions for developing a process for their disposition. Authorizes the Secretary to assess a civil penalty against any museum that fails to comply with this Act. Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to: (1) assist Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations in the repatriation of such items; and (2) assist museums in conducting such inventories and identification. Authorizes appropriations.