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Members of Osteology Laboratory Staff and Jemez tribal representatives during the Jemez repatriation project

NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, became law on November 16, 1990. Through NAGPRA, restrictions were enacted to protect Native American burial sites and cultural objects. NAGPRA extends protection to any federally recognized Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian or Alaskan group. Additionally a process was put into place for museums to repatriate these items. Repatriation can include long-term storage, return or reburial of sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony, and funerary objects, including human skeletal remains and burial artifacts. Relationships with the tribes are the most important part of the NAGPRA process.  

The Maxwell Museum is an active participant in the NAGPRA process and has worked closely with many tribes to repatriate objects.  Among recent repatriations, over 400 human skeletons were repatriated to the Jemez Pueblo between 2013 and 2015. As part of the repatriation project, anthropologists from the Maxwell Museum documented skeletal remains, composed a report of findings, and returned the remains for reburial.