Background

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a Federal law enacted in 1990 to resolve and restore the rights of Native American lineal descendants and tribes to human remains and cultural items. California NAGPRA is a State law enacted in 2001 to facilitate the implementation of Federal NAGPRA and to provide a mechanism to repatriate to California Indian Tribes as defined by California NAGPRA. Federal NAGPRA requires museums, agencies, and universities that accept Federal funding to consult with Native American tribes regarding the repatriation of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony in museum collections, or discovered on Federal or Tribal lands after 1990. UCLA houses Native American human remains and cultural items subject to NAGPRA in one campus repository, Fowler Archaeology. 

Prior to the implementation of NAGPRA UCLA held Native American human remains from approximately 2,000 ancestors in University stewardship. Human remains and cultural items were primarily obtained between 1950 and 1987 as the result of UCLA archaeological excavations, cultural resource management projects, or inadvertent discoveries by the public. 

NAGPRA Summaries and Inventories were first created in consultation with potentially affiliated tribes in 1993 and 1996. These preliminary efforts resulted in our first repatriation in 1996 with more following as consultations continued. In 2010 a renewal of requests for identification of further burial or ceremonial cultural items was made. The campus is continuing to consult and report any newly discovered human remains and cultural items as they are identified. 

See below the for 2020 report to the UC Regents

 

Policy

  • UCLA Campus Policy
  • UCLA adheres to the clear guidelines set in NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA, as well as the policy set by UCOP.
  • UC Systemwide Policy

  • The UC Office of the President issued an Interim Policy for the Native American Cultural Affiliation and Repatriation Policy in July 2020. The policy is issued as interim in order to allow additional review time for tribes that have not been able to review the policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University will issue a final updated policy by the end of 2021. 

    Comments and requests for consultation with the Office of the President can be submitted through the UCOP's "UC's Native American Cultural Affiliation and Repatriation Policy" website

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

  • What does NAGPRA require?
  • NAGPRA requires museums, agencies and universities to compile detailed summaries and inventories, consult with Native American tribes, and follow a process to return human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony that meet the requirements outlined in the law and are claimed by a tribe or tribes. For the purpose of clarity, on this website we use the terms within the legal texts we act through, although in conversation with our team you will notice we actually use the terms “ancestors” and “belongings” as is more culturally accurate. 

  • What is the scope of the items covered under NAGPRA?

  • NAGPRA covers five different categories: human remains, associated and unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. Human remains fall into two groups 1) those that can be culturally affiliated or connected to a modern day tribe or tribes which are federally recognized and 2) those that cannot are considered to be culturally unidentifiable. Funerary objects are items that are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death, or later, as part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture. In the event the museum holds both the human remains and funerary objects, the funerary objects are considered associated. In the event the human remains are not in the possession of a museum, objects are considered unassociated. Sacred objects are specific ceremonial objects which are needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their present day adherents. An object of cultural patrimony is an object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group, rather than property owned by an individual Native American, and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual.

  • What is the difference between culturally affiliated and culturally unidentifiable?
  • Cultural affiliation means “a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group” (25 USC 3001 (2)). NAGPRA requires this determination be made in consultation and consider multiple lines of evidence including geographical, kinship, biological, archaeological, linguistic, folkloric, oral tradition, historical, or other information. Remains are culturally unidentifiable when a relationship of shared group identity cannot be established on a reasonable basis with a federally recognized tribe. Culturally unidentifiable remains are eligible to be claimed and transferred to Native American tribes using the 43 CFR 10.11 regulations. It is important to note that just because ancestors may be determined “Culturally unidentifiable” does not mean that their origins are truly unknown--it can also mean affiliation to a non federally recognized tribe.
  • Other questions about Native American and Indigenous Peoples 
  • Please see the page for the Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Indigenous Affairs for general information about ongoing projects and collaborations at UCLA.

    Also see the FAQs produced by the Special Advisor which speaks to general questions about Native American and Indigenous peoples.