Repatriation and Traditional Care

Enacted by Congress in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) acknowledges the rights of lineal descendants, Native American tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to the return of certain human remains and cultural items. NAGPRA requires museums that receive federal funding to inventory their collections, engage in consultation, and offer transfers of control when certain conditions apply. The Museum is in full compliance with the law and follows the University of California Policy and Procedures on Curation and Repatriation of Human Remains and Cultural Items to meet its ongoing NAGPRA responsibilities. More about the Berkeley  NAGPRA Advisory Committee can be read here.

Consultation & Repatriation

As an essential part of these efforts, the Hearst Museum actively engages in consultation with tribes regarding Native American human remains and associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Consultation may take many forms, including but not limited to, in-person visits; telephone conversations; emails and letters; and inquiries for collections and archival information. To date, the Museum has consulted with more than 450 distinct Native groups.

NAGPRA claims can be made by lineal descendants, tribal chairpersons, or authorized NAGPRA representatives of federally recognized tribes. Generally, NAGPRA claims take the form of letters, and are accompanied by evidence related to right of possession, NAGPRA object category and, where applicable, evidence supporting a classification of cultural affiliation. Inquiries regarding the consultation or repatriation process can be directed to

On a case-by-case basis, the Museum will also consider repatriation requests for holdings that originate from outside of the United States. Please direct any related requests to

Traditional Care

Descendant communities may have their own traditional perspectives on the care, storage, and handling of cultural objects. The Museum welcomes requests to incorporate these approaches into its collections care, so long as they are mindful of museum curation and University safety policies. In cases where traditional care requests cannot be strictly accommodated, the Museum collaboratively explores alternative arrangements with communities in order to implement culturally sensitive care while upholding the safety and security of all collections.   

The Museum also invites guidance from tribes who, for whatever reason, are unable to receive human remains to whom they have been culturally affiliated. They are encouraged to contact the Museum regarding protocols for treatment of the remains until repatriation or an alternate disposition can be arranged.

For more information about traditional care or to submit a request, please contact