What is Repatriation?

Repatriation for museums and institutions like them is the process by which important cultural items and human remains are returned to lineal descendants or descendant communities.

For domestic repatriations, the Field Museum follows a law called NAGPRA that established a process through which museums work with Native American tribes and lineal descendants to identify and return items and human remains that fall under the law.

What is NAGPRA?
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a United States’ federal law that was passed in 1990. This law and its implementing regulations require that any institution that receives federal funding consult with Native American communities in order to identify items in its collection that may fall under NAGPRA. The institution, in collaboration with the requesting group or groups, then compiles information in order to confirm affiliation to a descendant community or lineal descendant and assess if the requested items fit under one or more of the four NAGPRA categories: human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

New NAGPRA regulations are in effect as of January 12, 2024, and can be found here. The Field Museum remains committed to consulting with US Tribes and Native Hawaiian Organizations.

International Repatriation
While most repatriation claims are facilitated through NAGPRA, the Field Museum also gives full consideration to repatriation requests for the return of human remains and associated funerary objects from culturally affiliated descendant communities or lineal descendants for whom NAGPRA does not apply.

External Links to the NAGPRA Statute and Regulations