Skip navigation

Department of Anthropology

Degree Programs

Museum of Anthropology

NAGPRA Consultations

2015

By Maritza Hernandez-Bravo, Project Assistant

Over Winter and Spring 2015, I worked as the NAGPRA consultation project assistant. This experience gave me a comprehensive understanding of what NAGPRA truly entails. The consultation project involved the repatriation of culturally unidentifiable human remains that had no location information associated with them.

Before this position I read how the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) came to be and how it has made a significant impact, not only in museum practice, but in how indigenous communities are being treated and viewed. Through this project, I learned how the law is implemented and the importance of process. This experience allowed me to connect reading to practice.

As project assistant, I assisted with tribal correspondence as well as a physical inventory of the human remains. I learned how important it is to tribal representatives when the right effort is made by museums in the NAGPRA process. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with tribal representatives and throughout the project I gained insight into the NAGPRA process from the tribes' perspective.

2014

By Angela Rueda and Halena Kapuni-Reynolds, Project Assistants

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990 by the United States Congress.  Since then, NAGPRA has enabled the repatriation of human remains, funerary objects and sacred objects, housed within U.S. museums, to their descendant Native American communities.  Here at DU, NAGPRA is a guiding document that has allowed the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology (DUMA) to successfully return Native American human remains and artifacts to their respective communities. 

We were fortunate this year to assist Anne Amati, NAGPRA Coordinator/Registrar, and Brooke Rohde, Curator of Collections with the NAGPRA process.  DUMA offers NAGPRA internships because NAGPRA is an integral component to the Anthropology graduate curriculum in Museum and Heritage Studies.  NAGPRA has transformed the U.S. museological profession into a collaborative industry that emphasizes the importance of consultation not only with Native American communities but also with the museum’s local constituency.  Thus, as the next generation of museum professionals, it is important that we understand the NAGPRA process and the benefits that arise from it.

After careful preparation and planning, DUMA hosted a consultation meeting on March 20, 2014 with representatives from over 22 Native American tribes in attendance.  This consultation is part of DUMA’s larger initiative to repatriate all human remains and funerary objects within its collections.  The consultation was successful in that there was a consensus reached to return the individuals housed in DUMA to their descendant communities.

We believe that NAGPRA compliance here at DUMA is a form of public engagement that reflects DU’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.  The consultation process has allowed us to experience the diversity in opinions, traditions, and languages that exists within Native American communities.  Although their cultures may differ, they share the common goal to return the ancestors and their possessions back to the earth.  We are both humbled by this experience and are further committed to becoming critical and inclusive museum professionals.

2013

By Heather McClain and Angela Rueda, Project Assistants

Since passing in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)—a federal law that guides the treatment and repatriation of Native American objects—has become an integral part of the museum world. Over the past 20 years, NAGPRA has not only helped to make museum collections accessible to tribes for repatriation, but it has also helped to establish lasting relationships between museums and tribes.

At the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology (DUMA), NAGPRA is important in guiding museum practice, and is also a cornerstone of the graduate program in Museum and Heritage Studies. The importance of the law within DUMA led the museum to initiate a multi-tribal consultation regarding the repatriation of 6 culturally unidentified individuals and 210 associated funerary objects. Through a grant provided by NAGPRA, we were able to help with both preparation and the actual consultation.

In April, we travelled to Albuquerque, New Mexico with DUMA staff Anne Amati, NAGPRA Coordinator/Registrar, and Brooke Rohde, Curator of Collections. As emerging museum professionals, it is important for us to not only know and understand this law, but also to observe and have hands-on experience with the law and the collaborative process between tribes and museums when dealing with sensitive, and often emotional, content. This was an incredible learning experience for us as we prepare for our future careers and we are happy to announce that all six individuals and 210 associated funerary objects will be repatriated by the end of 2013.