Resume Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Operations

TITLE: Resume Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Operations

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, for over two centuries Native American burial sites have been desecrated through the systematic collection of ancestral human remains without the consent of, or consultation with, the affected communities and those remains sat for decades in institutions suffering the indignity of study and/or neglect; and

WHEREAS, in November of 1990, congress sought to end this practice through the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA); and

WHEREAS, NAGPRA was intended to restore to tribes the fundamental human right to protect the graves of their ancestors by developing a process to repatriate ancestral human remains as well as creating the National NAGPRA Program and NAGPRA Review Committee to oversee the implementation of the law; and

WHEREAS, in May 2017, the Department of the Interior has suspended all advisory commissions and initiated a review of the charters and charges of those committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) Advisory Commissions in an effort to maximize feedback from these boards and to ensure their compliance with both FACA and the President’s recent executive orders; and

WHEREAS, this review process suspends critical functions of the NAGPRA Program including canceling all scheduled NAGPRA Review Committee Meetings, preventing the review of nominations and appointments to the NAGPRA Review Committee, and freezing the hiring of staff to fill vacant Program positions; and

WHEREAS, the suspension of the NAGPRA Review Committee may be temporary but it represents a profound impediment to the implementation of the NAGPRA process from moving forward not only for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, but also for museum communities, Federal agencies, and scientific organizations as well as delaying and preventing consultation with tribes; and

WHEREAS, NAGPRA states that the work of the Review Committee can only be terminated 120 days after the Secretary of the Interior certifies to Congress that the work of the committee has been completed, 25 USC 3006(i); and

WHEREAS, only through funding and staffing of the NAGPRA Program and, resuming regularly scheduled NAGPRA Review Committee meetings, can the implementation of NAGPRA be carried out, restoring tribal ancestors to their homes and communities in order to remedy the harm caused by centuries of desecration and disrespect shown Native American human remains.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) insists there be immediate restoration of the functions of the NAGPRA Program and Review Committee including resumptions of Review Committee meetings, as soon as possible, and, authorization of full staffing of the NAGPRA Program, and, immediate action on nominations to the Review Committee; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.


The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2018 Midyear Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Marriott Kansas City Downtown, June 3-6, 2018, with a quorum present.

Jefferson Keel, President

Juana Majel Dixon, Recording Secretary