The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)


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 November 16, 1990. The Act is primarily concerned with the identification of “human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony”  and the disposition and repatriation of the remains or objects to lineal descendants, Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.

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NAGPRA compliance is a multi-step process, one that the Davis Museum undertook in 2017. Following established NAGPRA requirements and formats, the Davis Museum prepared a summary of all objects under its control and undertook the process of determining which Indian tribes, lineal descendants, and Native Hawaiian organizations were the appropriate claimant to each object. 

In August, 2017, the Davis sent “Invitation to Consult” letters to 130 NAGPRA representatives, accompanied by illustrated inventory checklists. This consultation process resulted in no requests for repatriation.  Per regulations, the Davis provided copies of the letters and images of the objects to the NAGPRA office in Washington, DC; both have been documented and the images entered into the NAGPRA central database. 

Although the Davis has achieved full NAGPRA compliance, it is clear from a decolonial perspective that more active engagement and meaningful dialogue with Indigenous nations, communities, and organizations fosters a more meaningful and respectful understanding of the importance of traditional knowledge and lifeways. The Davis is committed to developing  projects to cultivate more robust collaborations with representatives from cultures associated with the Davis collections, and  we are implementing on an ongoing basis best practices to safeguard, contextualize, and interpret the parts of our collections  that remain on display.