Need Help with NAGPRA?

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became law thirty years ago. NAGPRA fundamentally changed the relationship between tribes, archaeologists, and museums, but there are still many challenges. Museums have over 120,000 Native American ancestral remains and some institutions have not yet consulted with tribes.

Image of tribal representatives in the Peabody Institute collection space with Marla Taylor, curator of collections
Marla Taylor (right), Peabody curator of collections, with Nekole Alligood (left) and Susan Bachor, representatives of the Delaware tribes, during a consultation meeting.

At the New England Museum Association annual meeting in November 2020 the Peabody Institute partnered with experts from tribes, museums, and federal agencies to answer questions about and discuss NAGPRA in a relaxed, welcoming, and no pressure workshop format. Seventy museum professionals participated, and we’ve had an opportunity to follow up with many of those folx since the workshop.

Representatives from the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians during a repatriation with members of the Peabody Institute staff. From left to right: Bob Shimek, Kayla Olson, Ryan Wheeler, Merlin Deegan, and Bonnie Sousa.

But don’t fear! If you couldn’t make the November workshop, we are still available to help you, wherever you are in the process. NAGPRA might seem a little daunting at first, so if you would like to chat with Peabody Institute personnel, or get some specific advice on how to move forward, we are here to support you. Contact Peabody Institute director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.edu to set up a time to talk.

NAGPRA Resources

NAGPRA Community of Practice: Hosted by the University of Denver, this is a great space to ask questions and connect with others engaged in repatriation. Consider joining one of the Zoom calls that happen twice a month: https://liberalarts.du.edu/anthropology-museum/nagpra/community-practice

National NAGPRA Website: This is the National Park Service’s newly redesigned website with everything you need to get started, including links to the NAGPRA law and rule, databases, templates, and advice on how to get started: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm

NAGPRA Data Visualization: Curious about how NAGPRA has been implemented in your area or across the country? Check out Melanie O’Brien’s NAGPRA Data Visualization on Tableau: https://public.tableau.com/profile/melanie.obrien#!/vizhome/NAGPRA-Totals/1_Reported

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