Final Rules on Repatriating Native American Remains

March 17, 2010

The U.S. Interior Department issued final rules this week on an issue of concern to Native Americans, anthropologists and many campus museums: the repatriation of the remains of Native Americans that have been held by museums. Earlier rules covered situations where remains could be traced to a specific tribe, and gave tribes considerable rights to demand repatriation. The new rules require museums to reach out to those tribes whose lands are or were near the sites where certain remains were found, in cases where those remains are deemed to be from Native Americans, but where no conclusive link could be established to a given tribe. Some universities are expecting that they will now need to review considerable holdings of Native American remains, and quite likely to turn over many of these remains. A spokesman for the American Anthropological Association said that it appeared the rules were "somewhat improved" over earlier drafts, but that the organization was continuing to study the new rules.

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