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Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act


As it's name suggests, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, passed in 1990, addresses protection of Native American graves on federal or tribal lands and repatriation of human remains and sacred objects.

The protection NAGPRA affords to grave sites is indirect - it does not expressly ban the disturbance of Native American graves. For intentional excavation of Native American cultural items on federal land or tribal land, it requires a permit issued under the  Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and consultation with the appropriate Indian tribe. On tribal land, consent of the tribe is also required. This is the law's strongest protection provision.

In the case of inadvertent discovery of Native American remains or objects on federal or tribal land, NAGPRA requires notification of the federal agency or tribe with jurisdiction over the land. If the discovery occurs in connection with an activity such as construction, logging, agriculture, etc., a reasonable effort must be made to protect the remains or objects, and notification to the federal agency or tribe must be given, before the activity can resume.

NAGPRA vests ownership of Native American remains and cultural objects excavated after the passage of the act on federal or tribal land  in the appropriate Indian tribe. The law also makes it illegal to traffic in Native American remains and cultural items without the right of possession to those remains and objects as provided in NAGPRA.

Most of the act deals with repatriation, which is a complex issue in its own right. Since we're discussing protection of sites we won't go into repatriation in detail. Basically, NAGPRA requires that all federally funded agencies, museums, and educational institutions compile an inventory of all Native American human remains and funerary objects in their possession. The Native American tribes that have a cultural association with the  remains and items can then claim them.

The complete text of NAGPRA, along with it's associated regulations and other related laws, and other information is available on the National Park Service National NAGPRA Web Site.

Federal Laws Federal Agencies Tennessee Laws State Agencies
American Indian Religious Freedom Act Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Archaeology Statues Division of Archaeology
Archaeological Resources Protection Act National Park Service Burial Statues Historical Commission
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act U.S. Forest Service Sacred Sites Policy Review Heritage Conservation Trust Fund
National Historic Preservation Act


Preserving Native American Historic Sites