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NAGPRA: introductions. Guest lecturer: Christina J. Hodge ([email protected]). “The Roots of NAGPRA”. Hirst : What do you see as the best possible outcome from the repatriation movement? And, what is the biggest stumbling block toward getting there?

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Nagpra introductions


Guest lecturer:

Christina J. Hodge ([email protected])

The roots of nagpra

“The Roots of NAGPRA”

  • Hirst: What do you see as the best possible outcome from the repatriation movement? And, what is the biggest stumbling block toward getting there?

  • Russell: The best possible outcomes would be that arches [archaeologists] recognize the right of Indians to tell their own stories in their own ways, that Indian dead are treated with the same respect as Invader dead, and Indians understand the necessity for and usefulness of the scientific method. The biggest obstacle is history.

excerpt of an 1997 interview between Steve Russell, member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and then Assistant Professor of Social and Policy Sciences at University of Texas San Antonio and, and K. Kris Hirst, archaeologist and freelance reporter for (

Mid later 20 th c

mid-later 20th c.

  • Civil Rights Movement

  • Pan-Indian and Red Power Movements, 1960s

  • Custer Died for Your Sins: an Indian Manifesto (Vine Deloria, Jr., 1969)

  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978)

  • Repatriation Movement 1970s on

Yakima Reservation border (U. of Washington Archives)

Pre nagpra case study zuni ahayu da began 1978

Pre-NAGPRA case study: Zuni Ahayu:da (began 1978)

  • Basic principles:

  • Communal ownership

  • Ongoing religious role

  • Historical continuity of these understandings

  • Animate objects, not art




Legislative history

Legislative history

  • “I believe this legislation effectively balances the interest of Native Americans in the rightful and respectful return of their ancestors with the interest of our Nation's museums in maintaining our rich cultural heritage, the heritage of all American peoples. Above all, I believe this legislation establishes a process that provides the dignity and respect that our Nation's first citizens deserve.”

  • — Senator John McCain, one of the law’s principal sponsors, noted during Senate consideration of the NAGPRA bill (10/26/1990)

  • Repatriation:

    • To restore/return to the country of birth, citizenship, or origin

Nagpra basics


Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act


1990 Federal Legislation

Administered by Department of the Interior (DoI) and the National Park Service (NPS)

Overseen by Review Committee of 7 tribal and non-tribal members (meets 2-3 times/year)

NAGPRA basics

  • Who

  • Federal agencies

  • Federal monies

  • Federally recognized tribal, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian groups

  • Covers

  • Inadvertent discovery

  • Planned excavation

  • Existing collections

  • Found/new collections

Act regulations

Act & Regulations: Passed

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq [Nov. 16, 1990]

Final Regulations, 43 CFR 10 [Dec. 04, 1995]

43 CFR 10 – Updated [Oct. 01, 2003]

43 CFR 10, Final Rule, Technical Amendment [Sep. 30, 2005]

43 CFR 10.13, Future applicability Final Rule [Mar. 21, 2007] – first reporting deadline April 20th 2009

Still Reserved

43 CFR 10.7Disposition of unclaimed human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony

43 CFR 10.11 Disposition of culturally unidentifiable human remains CURRENTLY IN DRAFT

43 CFR 10.15(b) Failure to claim where no repatriation or disposition has occurred

Act & regulations

Nagpra what human remains

NAGPRA: what — Human Remains

  • Cultural Items: Human remains, associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, cultural patrimony [25 USC 3001 (3)]

  • Human Remains: The physical remains of the body of a person of Native American ancestry. The term does not include remains or portions of remains that may reasonably be determined to have been freely given or naturally shed by the individual from whose body they were obtained, such as hair made into ropes or nets. For the purposes of determining cultural affiliation, human remains incorporated into a funerary object, sacred object, or object of cultural patrimony must be considered as part of that item. [43 CFR 10.2 (d)(1)]

Nagpra what funerary objects

NAGPRA: what — Funerary Objects

  • Associated Funerary Objects: Objects that, as a part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death or later, and both the human remains and associated funerary objects are presently in the possession or control of a Federal agency or museum, except that other items exclusively made for burial purposes or to contain human remains shall be considered as associated funerary objects. [25 USC 3001 (3)(A)]

  • Unassociated Funerary Objects: Objects that, as a part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death or later, where the remains are not in the possession or control of the Federal agency or museum [25 USC 3001 (3)(B)] Those funerary objects for which the human remains with which they were placed intentionally are not in the possession or control of a museum or Federal agency. [43 CFR 10.2 (d)(2)(ii)]

Nagpra what sacred objects objects of cultural patrimony

NAGPRA: what — Sacred Objects & Objects of Cultural Patrimony

  • Sacred Objects: Specific ceremonial objects which are needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their present day adherents. [25 USC 3001 (3)(C)]

Cultural Patrimony: An object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual Native American, and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual regardless of whether or not the individual is a member of the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and such object shall have been considered inalienable by such Native American group at the time the object was separated from such group. [25 USC 3001 (3)(D)]

Nagpra why


  • Native American: Of, or relating to, a tribe, people, or culture that is indigenous to the United States. [25 USC 3001 (9)] Of, or relating to, a tribe, people, or culture indigenous to the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. [43 CFR 10.2 (d)]

  • Cultural Affiliation: A relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group. [25 USC 3001 (2)]

  • Culturally Unidentifiable: Cultural items for which no culturally affiliated present-day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization can be determined. [43 CFR 10.9 (d)(2)]

  • Preponderance of Evidence: As standard of proof in civil cases, is evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it; that is, evidence which as a whole shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. [Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition]

Nagpra s research questions

NAGPRA’s research questions

  • Does the item meet the definition of a “cultural item” under NAGPRA?

  • Under what conditions was that item acquired?

  • What is the cultural affiliation of the cultural item?

Changes for tribes

1884 poison tag, NMNH

Changes for tribes

  • Working with imposed deadlines

  • Strain on resources

  • Asked to address difficult, multivalent issues

  • Asked to share sometimes esoteric/sensitive information

  • Increase education w/in communities: traditional rules, significance of cultural heritage, tribal museums & heritage centers

  • Determining appropriate reintegration of objects:

    • Storage

    • Use

    • Ritual retirement

    • Reburial

    • Co-curation

    • Long-term loan

    • Problem of poisoned objects

  • Decolonization

  • Intercultural processes of reconciliation & education

Changes for museums

Changes for museums

  • Paradigm shift:

    • NAGPRA “changed the underlying structures upon which the relationships between archaeologists [anthropologists, museums] and American Indians were based” (Watkins 2004)

  • Reorganization of museums (practical, philosophical)

  • Dialogue

  • New stakes in understandings of tangible and intangible property/heritage:

Bois Forte Band of the MN Chippewa rep’s visit @ PMAE in 2007

Changes for museums openness

Changes for museums: openness

Extensive consultation, including visits, calls, email, hard-copies, web-based information sharing, meetings @ conferences, etc.

Affiliated collections published in the Federal Register

Notice of Inventory Completion (HR, AFO)

Notice of Intent to Repatriate (UFO, SO, OCP)

Tlingit skirt examined during NAGPRA consultation visit @ PMAE in 2003

Changes for museums stewardship vs ownership

Changes for museums: stewardship vs. ownership

  • NMNH: Traditional Care of Culturally Sensitive Collections: Creating a Box for a Cheyenne Buffalo Skull

Betsy Bruemmer of the Repatriation Office, NMNH, and Gordon Yellowman of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

Resolutions beyond repatriation

Resolutions: beyond repatriation

  • solutions within legal structure go beyond legalities

  • best practices outside legal strictures

  • contributions to a "second museum age"?

    • true co-curation: shared ownership/control & voice

    • National Museums as repositories

    • long-term loans

    • international/bilateral agreements

    • diplomatic outreach

    • joint initiatives/knowledge- & object-sharing

    • rhetoric of healing

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