Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations may request the return of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), other federal agencies, or institutions that received federal funds.
After consultation with lineal descendants, Tribal officials, and traditional religious leaders, the BIA publishes notices describing its inventory of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. These notices are published in the Federal Register and sent to culturally-affiliated Tribes identified by the BIA.
In addition to the groups identified in the notice, other Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and lineal descendants may submit repatriation requests and provide accompanying evidence that they are culturally or geographically affiliated with the human remains or other cultural items in the notice in order to request their return.
Searching and Receiving NAGPRA Notices
The BIA publishes their latest NAGPRA notices in the Federal Register. The links below include the latest published articles on the Federal Register website for NAGPRA-related notices, including:
- BIA Notices of Inventory Completion, which announce the repatriation of Native American remains and associated funerary objects.
- BIA Notices of Intent to Repatriate Cultural Items, which announce the repatriation of Native American cultural items, including funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
From the links above, you may also click the “Subscribe” button on the Federal Register website and fill out the prompt to receive the latest articles that match your search.
How to Send a Repatriation Request
Each notice describes human remains or other cultural items the BIA has inventoried as well as the Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization identified for repatriation. The notice will also provide a deadline when the items will be transferred.
Other Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and lineal descendants may submit a repatriation request by the deadline named in the notice to have their request reviewed by the BIA.
To make a repatriation request, you may send an email to NAGPRA@bia.gov or mail a letter to the BIA NAGPRA program at the following address:
Tamara Billie, NAGPRA Lead
Bureau of Indian Affairs
1001 Indian School Road NW, Mailbox 44
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Your request should include the following information:
- Your full name and Tribal affiliation;
- Contact information such as phone number, email address, or mailing address;
- The document number or URL of the Federal Register notice;
- Which human remains or cultural items you are requesting repatriation for; and
- Evidence showing your affiliation with the human remains or items named in the notice.
Repatriation requests from Tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations should be signed and sent on official letterhead or emailed from an institutional email address.
If competing repatriation requests are received, the BIA will determine the most appropriate requestor prior to repatriation. Requests for joint repatriation are considered a single request and not competing requests.
Preparing Evidence for a Repatriation Request
Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and descendants requesting repatriation of items must provide evidence to establish kin or cultural affiliation to the human remains or items described in the notice.
Evidence of a kin or cultural affiliation between a present-day individual, Indian tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization and human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony must be established by using the following types of evidence: geographical, kinship, biological, archeological, anthropological, linguistic, folklore, oral tradition, historical, or other relevant information or expert opinion.
Lineal descent of a present-day individual from an earlier individual and cultural affiliation of a present-day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization to human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. Claimants do not have to establish cultural affiliation with scientific certainty.