Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

What is NAGPRA?

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was passed by Congress in 1990. It requires institutions that receive federal funding to inventory their collections, consult with federally recognized Native American tribes, and repatriate human remains or cultural items that meet certain criteria. In structuring conditions for repatriation, NAGPRA prioritizes a principle termed “cultural affiliation” which means a reasonable relationship can be demonstrated between an identifiable earlier group and a present-day federally recognized tribe or tribes. A full presentation of the process as stipulated by the NAGPRA statute and regulations is available at National NAGPRA, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

What is Repatriation?
Repatriation is the process whereby specific kinds of Native American cultural items in a museum collection are returned to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Native American tribes, Alaska Native clans or villages, and/or Native Hawaiian organizations. Human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony are all materials that may be considered for repatriation.

Implementation & Consultation

The Museum of Anthropology contains collections that fall under the NAGPRA statute and is engaged in working with Native American groups to meet its responsibilities under both the letter and spirit of the statute. The Museum welcomes consultation with Native American tribes, Alaska Native villages, and Native Hawaiian organizations and strives to understand each group’s goals on a case-by-case basis.

The Museum has submitted summaries of its holdings to all federally recognized tribes in the United States, including Alaska Native villages and Native Hawaiian organizations.  Inventories of human remains and cultural items have been submitted to the National NAGPRA Program, and some human remains have been repatriated, but there is more work to do and tribal consultations are an ongoing process. 

NAGPRA activities include

  • Consultations with Native American groups
  • Publication of Notices of Intent to Repatriate or Notices of Inventory Completion in the Federal Register
  • Physical repatriation
  • Research and production of inventory reports

The Museum encourages groups embarking on repatriation activities to begin by consulting the museum's Online Databases ( for remote access to collections information and images, and the NAGPRA database (

Consultations with Native American groups under NAGPRA take several forms: visits to the Museum to discuss human remains, funerary objects, and sacred objects or objects of cultural patrimony; inquires for additional information on collections; arrangements for physical repatriations; and web consultation through the collections database online.

The Museum actively seeks opportunities to improve and expand collections accessibility for Native American communities, whether through NAGPRA or other means.

NAGPRA collection inquiries may be directed to:

Museum of Anthropology, University of Missouri
115 Business Loop 70 West
Columbia, MO 65211


Candace Sall
Associate Curator and NAGPRA Compliance Coordinator


Dr. Alex Barker
Director, Museum of Anthropology


For more information on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) go to