US museums and native tribes receive $2 million grant to boost repatriation efforts

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The National Park Service (NPS) has awarded 20 U.S. museums and nine native tribes grants totaling $2.1 million to assist in the consultation, cataloging, and repatriation of ancestral remains and cultural artifacts in an effort to increase enforcement of the US National Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. (NAGPRA).

The 1990 law requires institutions funded by the federal government to inventory their collections of human remains and Aboriginal grave goods in order to facilitate their return. But compliance and enforcement have been points of contention for several US museums since its enactment due to logistical hurdles regarding tribal affiliation and compliance.

Among the recipients, the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Wisconsin received approximately $12,000 that will facilitate the repatriation of the remains of five people and 25 grave goods that were removed from Ventura County, California between 1875 and 1889 by a archaeologist and later sold to the museum.

And the Tlingit and Haida Tribal Council received nearly $100,000, which will fund the viewing and documentation of sacred ceremonial objects currently in the collections of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, Rhode Island School of Design and Museum of US in San Diego, California.

The financial support comes with the organization’s ongoing review of NAGPRA’s statute, which is overseen by the US Department of the Interior along with the NPS and several tribal leaders. More than 700 proposals are being reviewed as part of this process, which aims to assess compliance failures and fix loopholes in the law that have blocked repatriation procedures.

The grants are “just one way the NPS is advancing a whole-of-government effort to strengthen tribal sovereignty and repair our nation-to-nation relationships,” NPS Director Chuck Sams said in a statement. “The repatriation of human remains and sacred cultural objects to Native American tribes, Alaska Natives and the Native Hawaiian community is fundamental to ensuring the preservation of Native culture.

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