The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)


The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law enacted on November 16, 1990. The act is primarily concerned with the identification of “human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony” with goals of dialogue, respect, and repatriation or return to lineal tribal descendants.

For more information, see

NAGPRA compliance is a multi-step process, one that the Davis Museum undertook in 2017. Following established NAGPRA requirements and formats, the Davis produced and distributed an "Invitation to Consult" letter for each of the tribes and nations with which the objects in our collections are associated, and included  an illustrated summary. Under the law, the onus then moved to the tribes to consult with the Davis regarding any object to which they feel they may have a claim for repatriation. 

As of August 23, 2017 the Davis had sent “Invitation to Consult” letters to 130 NAGPRA representatives (across 14 tribes and nations), with lineal and cultural connections to objects in the Davis Museum holdings, accompanied by illustrated inventory checklists. Per regulations, the Davis provided copies of the letters and images of the objects to the NAGPRA office in Washington, DC; both have been documented and the images entered into the central database. 

Although the Davis has achieved full NAGPRA compliance, it is clear from a decolonial perspective that due diligence is insufficient and more active strategies can be implemented to engage collaborators in meaningful dialogue. Davis staff members are now developing projects to cultivate more robust collaborations with representatives from cultures associated with artworks in the Davis collections, and to strategize about the best ways to safeguard, contextualize, and interpret the relevant artworks that remain.