Cultural Resources Office

Representatives of the Tohono O'odham Nation visit the Museum to complete a repatriation.
D. Finnin/© AMNH
The Cultural Resources Office facilitates repatriation activities for the American Museum of Natural History.

The Cultural Resources Office was created in 1992 to implement the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a federal law that was passed in 1990 and established a legal obligation and process by which human remains and cultural items may be returned to U.S. Native American Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and lineal descendants.

While NAGPRA only provides a process under Federal law for addressing U.S. Native American human remains and cultural items, the Museum also evaluates and responds to requests from international communities. For more information, please contact Cultural Resources Office staff listed below.

Working Through NAGPRA

The Cultural Resources Office has initiated consultation processes and provided collections information to each of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States as well as numerous Native Hawaiian Organizations, state-recognized tribes, lineal descendants, and other Native groups. 

Consultation is an ongoing endeavor, and the Cultural Resources office works to provide collections information, host collection reviews, research and evaluate repatriation claims, advise the Museum's loan and accession committees, write Notices of Inventory Completion and Intent to Repatriate for the Federal Register, manage repatriations, and coordinate with federal agencies on federal collections housed at the Museum.

Working with the Cultural Resources Office may include the following steps:

2021 Repatriation to Tohono O'odham Nation

In August 2021, the Museum welcomed five representatives from the Tohono O'odham Nation to complete the repatriation of more than 120 items, including ceremonial regalia, from the Division of Anthropology's ethnographic collection. The Tohono O'odham Nation's Cultural Affairs Specialist Samuel Fayuant describes the process, which began with consultations in 2019, in this video.

Cultural Resources Office Staff

Historical Collections

U.S. Repatriations 

As of May 20, 2024, the Cultural Resources Office has published 74 Notices of Inventory Completion that describe more than 2,100 sets of human remains and more than 3,800 associated funerary objects; and 29 Notices of Intent to Repatriate that describe more than 500 unassociated funerary objects and more than 150 sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. Fifty-five (55) repatriations have been completed, resulting in the transfer of more than 1,000 sets of Native American human remains, and 2,300 cultural items.


International Repatriations 

Since 1993, the Museum has completed international repatriations, resulting in the transfer of more than 200 sets of human remains to their Nations and countries of origin: Canada, Greenland, Mexico, and New Zealand.