Links and Information on International Repatriation

DOI Activities


In 2016, DOI held government-to-government consultations with Native American Tribes to explore how to improve federal efforts in support of international repatriation. DOI outlined issues and questions in an August 2016 letter to tribal leaders. A summary of listening sessions and consultations is available online. 

A September 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed efforts by DOI (and other federal agencies) to help Tribes repatriate cultural items being offered in foreign auctions. In February 2020, DOI held a consultation to seek input on a draft of legislative options to enhance federal support for international repatriations developed in response to one of the GAO’s recommendations. 

In December 2020, DOI held a consultation to invite information on cultural items identified by Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations that are held outside the United States. 

Congressional Requests

Congress has discussed ways to improve U.S. federal support for Native America communities seeking to protect their cultural heritage and repatriate cultural items held abroad, and passed joint resolution in December 2016 addressing the issue and supporting a GAO review. In response to the September 2018 GAO report, DOI is incorporating input from Tribes, Native Alaskan communities, and Native Hawaiian organizations into a summary of legislative options to support international repatriation. In addition, DOI has responded to requests for information and technical input on proposed legislation, including the 2017 and 2019 versions of the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act. 

Other U.S. Federal Resources

The Cultural Heritage Center at the U.S. Department of State can assist Native American efforts to recover cultural items from abroad

The National NAGPRA Program within the National Park Service administers repatriations within the United States under NAGPRA.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Art Crime Team is a dedicated group of 16 special agents, supported by DOJ trial attorneys for prosecutions. The Bureau also runs the National Stolen Art File.

United Nations

The United Nations Indigenous Peoples page includes detailed information on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007.

United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) maintains a database of national laws of member states relating to cultural heritage protection, and makes available the 1997 edition of a resource handbook for the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO convention "Preventing the Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property."

Nongovernmental Organizations

International Centre for the Study of the Preservation & Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an international, inter-governmental organization, publishes a database of training opportunities in heritage conservation and affiliated disciplines, a database of its extensive library holdings, and a listing of its downloadable publications.

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an international non-governmental organization, dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites. It has about 7000 members in 110 countries, 37 national committees with their own websites, and 18 scientific committees with special interests.

International Council on Museums (ICOM), an international non-governmental organization of museum professionals, maintains a bibliography on illicit trafficking of cultural property, and publishes its Red Lists, showing images and descriptions of cultural objects at risk for theft and illicit trafficking.

The Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) Repatriation Project is a national and international effort toward assisting Native American communities in the United States and Indigenous Peoples internationally with repatriations.  AAIA published A Guide to International Repatriation in 2015.

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