Reestablishment of the NCAI Tribal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Commission

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Resolution #SAC-12-073

TITLE: Reestablishment of the NCAI Tribal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Commission

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, the NCAI has a long history of supporting indigenous peoples rights of repatriation of Native American human remains and funerary objects in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner; and

WHEREAS, the NCAI supported the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) that was enacted on November 16, 1990 (25 U.S.C. 3006) in order to benefit tribes by restoring to indigenous peoples the basic human rights to protect the graves of their ancestors, Native American human remains, sacred objects, and associated/unassociated funerary objects and objects of cultural patrimony; and

WHEREAS, the National Park Service (NPS) has been delegated authority to implement certain provisions of NAGPRA by the Secretary of the Interior, including providing staff support to the Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee, promulgation of regulations, awarding of grants, and investigation of civil penalties; and

WHEREAS, the latest NAGPRA Review Committee report to Congress for FY2011 noted that although considerable progress in repatriation activities had occurred, continued barriers to full and complete implementation included: 1) a lack of sufficient funding to adequately comply with the provisions of the Act; 2) confusion regarding responsibility for reporting certain federal collections held in non-federal museums; 3) confusion regarding applicability of specific time frames for responses by museums to different kinds of requests or responsibilities; 4) the need for amendments of certain aspects of current NAGPRA regulations, specifically 43 CFR 10.11 - Disposition of Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains; 5) lack of access to federal land for reburial of human remains and associated funerary objects resulting from repatriations or dispositions; 6) conflicting cultural protocols, and specifically, misunderstandings arising from Native American gifting practices showing courtesy and respect which are forbidden under Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) ethical guidelines; and

WHEREAS, the NCAI needs to reestablish the Tribal NAGPRA Commission to provide a platform for tribal leaders and tribal NAGPRA authorities to direct and advise Congress and the Administration on these critical repatriation issues.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NCAI Committee on Litigation and Governance, Subcommittee on Human, Religious and Cultural Concerns does hereby call upon the NCAI Executive Board, through the approval of the NCAI General Assembly of Member Tribes, to immediately and without haste, reestablish the NCAI Tribal NAGPRA Commission; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI opposes issuance of any additional regulations to the NAGPRA until such time that the NCAI Tribal NAGPRA Commission can be reestablished and provided adequate and appropriate opportunities to consult directly with the Federal NAGPRA Review Committee on such regulatory matters; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI insists that our ancestors must be repatriated and reburied by Native peoples as soon as possible and that all scientific study of “culturally unidentifiable” Native American human remains shall immediately cease and desist, regardless of the status of the repository for which they are held in possession; and

BE IT FINALLY 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 2012 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Sacramento Convention Center from October 21-26, 2012 in Sacramento, California, with a quorum present.


Recording Secretary