Interior Department Takes Next Steps to Update Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Proposed changes would streamline processes and improve compliance of NAGPRA; public comment period opens

Last edited 10/13/2022

Date: Thursday, October 13, 2022


WASHINGTON — Following extensive Tribal consultation and review, the Department of the Interior today announced that proposed revisions to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’s (NAGPRA) regulations are now available for public comment.

NAGPRA regulations provide a systematic process for returning human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony to Native American and Alaska Native Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. The proposed changes would streamline requirements for museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify human remains and cultural items in their collections. 

"The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is an important law that helps us heal from some of the more painful times in our past by empowering Tribes to protect what is sacred to them. These changes to the Department's NAGPRA regulations are long overdue and will strengthen our ability to enforce the law and help Tribes in the return of ancestors and sacred cultural objects," said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. 

“Repatriation is a sacred responsibility for many Indigenous communities. After consulting with Tribal Nations across the United States, the National Park Service welcomes additional input on improvements to the NAGPRA regulations,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “We hope these changes will make it easier for proper repatriation and reburial of Indigenous ancestors and cultural items.”

The Department of the Interior consulted with 71 Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations on the draft proposal and received more than 700 specific comments. Key feedback from these consultations is now reflected in the updated proposed revisions, including: 

  • Strengthening the authority and role of Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations in the repatriation process 
  • Addressing barriers to timely and successful disposition and repatriation
  • Documenting and addressing requests of Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations when human remains or cultural items are discovered on federal or Tribal lands before items are further disturbed, and 
  • Increasing transparency and reporting of holdings or collections 

Enacted in 1990, NAGPRA requires museums and federal agencies to identify Native American human remains, funerary items, and objects of cultural significance in their collections and collaborate with Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to repatriate them.  

The public can comment on the proposed rule until Jan. 12, 2023, at

Visit the National Park Service’s NAGPRA website for more information.  


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