On Oct. 7, 2009, the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Passed in 1990, NAGPRA “provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items–human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony–to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and native Hawaiian organizations.” The panel included the Deputy Director of the National Park Service David Wenk, Susan Bruning of the Society for American Archaeology, representatives of the Tribal Nations, and others.
In his testimony, Wenk provided a brief introduction to the NAGPRA process, and identified several barriers that inhibit its implementation: limited access and use of Native American human remains and cultural items that reside in museum and federal agency collections; a lack of audits to determine whether all human remains and cultural items are accounted for; insufficient authority to survey NAGPRA olibgated entities to determine the number of human remains repatriated; and the fact that NAGRPA only applies to human remains and cultural items that a museum or federal agency determines are Native American. Additional expert testimony is available on the House Committee’s website.
AAA members interested in writing about NAGPRA can submit an article proposal for the March 2010 issue of Anthropology News. The CFP is available here.