The Repatriation Project

The Delayed Return of Native Remains

America’s institutions maintain control of more than a hundred thousand remains of Native Americans as well as sacred items. A federal law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was meant to help return them, but decades after its 1990 passage, many tribes are still waiting.


Does Your Local Museum or University Still Have Native American Remains?

Three decades after legislation pushed for the return of Native American remains to Indigenous communities, many of the nation’s top museums and universities still have thousands of human remains in their collections. Check on institutions near you.

America’s Biggest Museums Fail to Return Native American Human Remains

The remains of more than 100,000 Native Americans are held by prestigious U.S. institutions, despite a 1990 law meant to return them to tribal nations. Here’s how the ancestors were stolen — and how tribes are working to get them back.

Other Entries

The Met Will “More Thoroughly” Investigate Artwork Origins With Hire of Provenance Researchers

The museum announced this week that it will hire additional experts to look more deeply into the histories of works in its collections. The plans follow news reports and criminal investigations on the origins of some items.

Is the Metropolitan Museum of Art Displaying Objects That Belong to Native American Tribes?

Only a small percentage of works donated by Charles and Valerie Diker have clear ownership histories. Experts say this could mean objects are stolen or fake. Meanwhile, the Met has been slow to ask tribes for information about the items.

Senate Committee Probes Top Universities, Museums Over Failures to Repatriate Human Remains

U.S. senators want five institutions to explain why they continue to hold thousands of Native American remains and belongings, following reporting from ProPublica and NBC News. “It’s immoral, it’s hypocritical, and it has to stop,” one senator said.

Sweeping Repatriation Reform Bill Unanimously Passes Illinois House of Representatives

If signed into law, the legislation would create a protected cemetery for the reburial of repatriated Native American ancestors and establish a committee of tribal leaders to review state projects that may disturb culturally significant sites.

Dozens of Museums and Universities Pledge to Return Native American Remains. Few Have Funded the Effort.

Reporting from nearly 50 local newsrooms, based on ProPublica’s “Repatriation Project,” has sparked a wave of apologies and commitment to returning ancestral remains. But without funding for the work tribal nations could still face empty promises.

A Top UC Berkeley Professor Taught With Remains That May Include Dozens of Native Americans

Despite decades of Indigenous activism and resistance, UC Berkeley has failed to return the remains of thousands of Native Americans to tribes. The university is still discovering more human remains.

How to Report on the Repatriation of Native American Remains at Museums and Universities Near You

A journalist’s guide to reporting on institutions that still hold Native American remains, using ProPublica’s NAGPRA database as a starting point.

How a Tourist Attraction Displaying the Open Graves of Native Americans Became a State-Run Museum

Generations of visitors learned about the history of Native Americans in Illinois through the eyes of amateur archaeologist Don Dickson. Though the exhibit he built closed in 1992, the Dickson Mounds Museum is still grappling with his legacy.

The Museum Built on Native American Burial Mounds

For decades, Dickson Mounds Museum in Illinois displayed the open graves of more than 200 Indigenous people. Thirty years after a federal law required museums to begin returning remains, the statewide museum system still holds thousands.

Help Us Investigate Museums’ Failure to Return Native American Human Remains and Cultural Items

Do you know about how museums and other institutions are handling the repatriation of Native American human remains and cultural items under NAGPRA? We want to hear from you.

Behind ProPublica’s Reporting on Repatriation

Our reporters answer frequently asked questions about The Repatriation Project from leaders and citizens of tribal nations.

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