Repatriation in the United States: The Current State of NAGPRA

Authored by: Jon Daehnke , Amy Lonetree

Handbook of Postcolonial Archaeology

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781598741827
eBook ISBN: 9781315427690
Adobe ISBN: 9781315427683


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Repatriation in the United States today is synonymous with the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). While repatriations of Native American ancestral remains and cultural objects certainly occurred—and continue to occur—outside of the purview of NAGPRA, this law remains the centerpiece of repatriation activities in the United States. NAGPRA is important human rights legislation, designed first and foremost to address the historical inequities created by a legacy of past collecting practices, the continual disregard for Native religious beliefs and burial practices, and a clear contradiction between how the graves of white Americans and graves of Native Americans have been treated. NAGPRA attempts to address these inequities by giving Native American communities greater control over the remains of their ancestors and cultural objects, and the law has provided some measure of success in this regard. But in the nearly 20 years since its passage, significant shortcomings of NAGPRA have become readily apparent.

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