Association on American Indian Affairs


The Development of NAGPRA

Video Narrated by AAIA Executive Director Jack Trope.

The Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) has long been involved in efforts to ensure the return of ancestral remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to Native communities. In 1990, AAIA played a key role in obtaining the enactment of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a law that protects grave sites on federal lands and requires the repatriation of human remains and cultural items to Indian people and tribes under certain circumstances. (See NAGPRA Summary) The human rights issue of repatriation, however, is not limited to the United States, but extends internationally as recently recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The AAIA Repatriation Program has two components: (1) NAGPRA Compliance and (2) International Repatriation.

NAGPRA: AAIA has been very involved in the implementation of NAGPRA, having facilitated repatriation of almost 2,000 human remains to Dakota tribes, as well as filing amicus briefs in NAGPRA cases, writing legal analyses of NAGPRA for public use, providing NAGPRA training, and filing comments on proposed regulations.

International Repatriation Program: In 2010, the AAIA began the first national effort toward assisting Native American communities in the United States with international repatriations. While the human rights issues that have resulted in the necessity for repatriation were once thought to be contained within the borders of the United States, it has become apparent that this is an international issue in scope. It is estimated that 1 to 2 million Native American ancestral remains and cultural objects reside in international repositories.

Responding to the lack of information available to Native communities, the AAIA begun to create information resources for tribes, including a culturally sensitive database of international collections, contact information at international repositories, and has offered international repatriation assistance when requested.

For further information contact:

Jack F. Trope, Esq.
Association on American Indian Affairs
966 Hungerford Drive, Suite 12-B
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (240) 314-7155
Fax: (240) 314-7159