This definitive resource guide outlines the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and contains important information about the repatriation process. Published by the AMERICAN INDIAN RITUAL OBJECT REPATRIATION FOUNDATION (1997).

Download Mending the Circle: A Native American Repatriation Guide.

cover of


Chapter 1. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by Jack Trope, Esq.

NAGPRA provides various repatriation, ownership and control rights to Native American individuals and families who are the lineal descendants of a deceased Native individual and to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.

Chapter 2. Musings on Two Worlds Views by Tessie Naranjo (Santa Clara)

Two different ways of seeing the world come together at meetings of the NAGPRA Review Committee, with tribal members and museum representatives often on opposite sides of the room. Charter member Tessie Naranjo addresses the reasons why Native Americans do not share the assumption behind what museums do.

Chapter 3. Building a Tribal Repatriation Program: Options for Excercising Sovereignty by Dean B. Suagee, Esq. (Cherokee)

The following is a discussion of how Indian tribes can use their sovereign powers to secure their rights under NAGPRA. There is a spectrum of approaches to the exercise of repatriation rights, ranging from case-by-case pursual to the creation of comprehensive, pro-active programs.



Chapter 1. History of the Native American Collections

The Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History have pioneered in Native American scholarship since the mid-nineteenth century. Since its establishment the National Museum has formed one of the country’s most extensive collections of Native American items representing every geographical area and almost every tribal group in the hemisphere.

Chapter 2. Smithsonian Institution Repatriation Procedures by Tamara Bray, Jacki Rand (Choctaw) & Thomas Killion

Of theSmithsonian's more than one dozen museums and numerous research facilities and program offices, only two museums are engaged in ongoing repatriation related activities: the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The NMNH and the NMAI are responsible for the care and management of two major collections of materials related to the cultures of Native Peoples from throughout the Western Hemisphere and Hawaii. Consequently, they share a responsibility for the Smithsonian Institution’s accountability on the issue of repatriation. This section of the repatriation handbook will describe their respective policies, the legislative history on which each policy is based, and the repatriation process for each museum.



Chapter 1. Museum Perspectives from Within: A Native View by Lynne Harlan (Cherokee)

Museum collections and research in those collections can be daunting, overwhelming and confusing, for no two museums are exactly alike. The normal difficulties of working with museum collections are compounded by enormous emotional and spiritual issues for Native American researchers. In attempting to address these problems, comprehensive inclusion of the spiritual concerns of Native people and comprehensive knowledge of museums are both needed, and must be pursued as extensively as possible within the limits of time and space.



Chapter 1. About the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation by Elizabeth Sackler, President, A.I.R.O.R.F.

In the United States of America, First Amendment rights are celebrated and taught as a keystone of Democracy. First Americans of this land, however, have never enjoyed the freedom that other Americans do and are continually struggling with the federal government and with racism in order to worship and live a traditional way of life.

Chapter 2. Strategies and Procedures for the Repatriation of Materials from the Private Sector by Kate Morris

Art auction houses, dealers, private collectors, corporations and other non-federally funded institutions are not bound by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). They have not been required to notify Native Nations1 of potentially repatriatable materials in their collections. Nonetheless, Native Nations regularly learn of materials in these kinds of collections that they would like to have returned. Though private sector individuals and institutions are under no legal obligation to repatriate these materials, there have been a number of occasions in which they have done so.



Chapter 1. Reflections of a Native Repatriator by Richard Hill, Sr. (Tuscarora)

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of my involvement in the repatriation movement. I started before most Indians had even heard the word repatriation. I was a young research assistant at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and the only Indian the museum had ever hired.


A. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
B. Samples of Summaries
C. Samples of Tribal Response Letters
D. NAGPRA Review Committee
E. Excerpts from Reclaimed Heritage
F. National Museum of the American Indian
G. NMAI Repatriation Policy Statement
H. NMNH Repatriation Policy Statement
I. NMNH Repatriation Review Committee
J. Review Committee Procedures
K. Deed of Gift/Statement of Return
L. Legal Briefs
M. Corporate Collections of Native American Art
N. Auction Information
O. HaudenoSaunee Reclaim Their Heritage
P. 1994 Letter to Sherwood's Spirit of America
Q. A Brief Guide to Museums: Organization, Collections, Records, and Mistakes
R. Description of American Association of Museums' FORUM: Native American Collections and Repatriations
S. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Regulations
T. National Museum of the American Indian Act Ammendments of 1996
U. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Interim Rules


Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Implementing Regulations (And 1996 Museum Act Amendments) by Jack F. Trope, Esq.

The following text is a summary of those parts of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) regulations and the National Museum of the American Indian (Museum Act) amendments which clarify, amplify or modify the provisions of the original Acts. Regulations implementing NAGPRA became effective on January 3, 1996 and are found on pages 169–189 (Appendix V). The Museum of the American Indian Act Amendments of 1996 were signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 9, 1996 and are found on pages 190-191 (Appendix W). Finally, the interim rule regarding civil penalties for NAGPRA is found on pages 192-199 (Appendix X). These additional regulations were issued on January 13, 1997 and may be revised in the future.

List of Sections:

  • The NAGPRA Regulations
  • Cultural Items
  • Items Possessed or Controlled by Museums and Federal Agencies
  • Burial Sites on Federal and Tribal Land
  • Penalties for Violation of NAGPRA and Other Means of Enforcement
  • Implemation of NAGPRA
  • Museum Act Amendments of 1996