WASHINGTON – The National Park Service has released the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee’s annual report to Congress. The report includes the Review Committee’s progress and challenges faced in 2015, as well as recommendations for implementing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
In 2015, the Review Committee informed museums and federal agencies of ongoing compliance requirements. The Review Committee made a finding of fact on the cultural affiliation of human remains from a site in Missouri and heard six requests from museums and federal agencies for recommendations on disposition plans for culturally unidentifiable human remains.
The Review Committee also identified challenges faced by tribes, museums, and agencies in completing the NAGPRA process, including inadequate funding or capacity, incomplete inventories or reporting from museums and federal agencies, lack of appropriate places for reburial, and the need to clarify parts of the law or regulations. The Review Committee proposed seven recommendations to Congress to address these issues:
- Continue to support and increase grant funding, especially to Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to build institutional capacity and meet the requirements of the Congressional policy of Indian self-determination;
- Fulfill the statutory requirements of NAGPRA by providing adequate and consistent staffing and support to the National NAGPRA Program;
- Support federal agency compliance with NAGPRA, including inventories of federal collections in non-federal repositories;
- Support stronger enforcement measures by the Review Committee and the National NAGPRA Program, as well as the Secretary of the Interior, to better deal with compliance issues;
- Enact legislation to further protect Native American burials by providing methods to protect public lands, or allow Tribes to acquire public lands, in order to provide areas for reburial;
- Support broader opportunities for reburial of Native American ancestors on federal lands, including national parks; and
- Hold hearings to determine whether amendments to the Act should be considered that would expedite the repatriation process, and support the National NAGPRA Program in revisions to the current regulations.
The Review Committee, authorized by the NAGPRA of 1990, monitors, reviews, and assists in the implementation of certain requirements of the Act and reports to Congress annually. Members are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior from nominations by Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, traditional Native American religious leaders, national museum organizations, and scientific organizations.
A copy of the report is available on the National NAGPRA website: www.nps.gov/nagpra.
Unless noted, the thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the
author and not necessarily the opinion of the editors of PreservationDirectory.com.