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.

NAGPRA at the Museum of Anthropology

In 2016 our new director rejuvenated contacts with tribes by re-sending our summary to all Federally Recognized Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian Organizations.  Our 1993 summary went out to tribes in our region of the Midwest. 

Consultation is the backbone of NAGPRA, and we have been able to move forward quickly because of tribal support; we are grateful to the communities with whom we work for sharing their knowledge and expertise.  To facilitate in-person consultations, NAGPRA Consultation and Documentation grants have been solicited and successfully awarded every year since 2017 (with the most recent award being announced Summer 2023) to more fully document collection and site histories for the benefit of our tribal partners, so we may determine cultural affiliations together.  Another activity in consultation with tribal partners, and an outgrowth of the first grant, is the Museum’s Traditional Care and Handling Guidelines.  These guidelines are a living document that will be amended as needed based on evolving tribal concerns and preferences.

Nearly all human remains in our care are from Missouri, and inventories have been submitted.  However, many of them were classified as culturally unidentifiable, and most of our current efforts involve working with tribes to affiliate these remains or decide on appropriate disposition.  We have no known sacred objects or objects of cultural patrimony. 

Please contact us for consultation, or if we can answer any questions. 

Tribes known to have lived in or traveled through Missouri:

Otoe-Missouria Tribe, The Osage Nation, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Delaware Nation, Quapaw Tribe, Kaw Nation, Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation, The Chickasaw Nation, The Choctaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Shawnee Tribe, Pawnee Nation, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska.

If you have knowledge of additional tribes dwelling in or passing through Missouri, we would appreciate hearing from you.

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.

Contact Info

NAGPRA collection inquiries may be directed to:

Museum of Anthropology, University of Missouri
101 Museum Support Center
Columbia, MO 65211

Kate Trusler, PhD
NAGPRA Coordinator

Candace Sall, PhD

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