University of Michigan Office of Research
"Meeting the spirit and letter of the law."

Frequently Asked Questions

With the goal of being as thorough, accurate, and complete as possible, the University is working steadily through a process to assure NAGPRA compliance.  This includes initiating re-inventories of culturally affiliated and culturally unidentified human remains, associated and unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony held in the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology as well as in other collections-holding units on all University of Michigan campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint).  Tribal consultations, as required under NAGPRA, are an integral part of this process.

The Vice President for Research has empaneled a NAGPRA Advisory Committee at the University to review, revise, and recommend NAGPRA policies and procedures for the University as needed going forward.  This committee, which includes a tribal representative with a vote, also serves as a review panel to make sure that all claims, requests, or other NAGPRA-related issues are handled and assessed in accordance with University policy and federal regulations.  The committee makes formal recommendations to the Vice President for Research with whom all final decisions reside.

All of the University’s transfers to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations are conducted in accordance with federal law, but also with an eye toward efficiency so as not to unduly delay the completion of the transfer process.  With this in mind, the University is working through three phases of an overall NAGPRA compliance process.  The first phase is focusing on repatriations and dispositions of Native American human remains and funerary objects (associated and unassociated) from sites located within the State of Michigan.  This comprises approximately 80% of the NAGPRA-eligible human remains and 50% of the funerary objects in the University’s collections.  The second phase will focus on repatriations and dispositions of Native American human remains and funerary objects (associated and unassociated) from sites located in states other than Michigan.  The University has NAGPRA-eligible collections from 37 states other than the State of Michigan.  The third phase of the NAGPRA process will focus on initiating consultations and determining cultural affiliation for Native American sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony among its ethnographic collections.  It is important to note that as the re-inventory and consultation processes continue, these numbers and estimates are all subject to updates.

The long-term goal is that by engaging in a transparent, orderly, and amicable process, University and tribal representatives will develop a broader dialogue and deeper relationship with one another that will result in cooperative and collaborative projects beyond NAGPRA in the future.

NAGPRA-eligible collections and objects include Native American human remains, associated funerary objects, or unassociated funerary objects that were unearthed from sites located within the United States.  NAGPRA-eligible collections and objects also include any items that culturally affiliated Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations can substantiate as sacred objects or objects of cultural patrimony.

NAGPRA law and regulations include specific definitions for such terms as: Native American, human remains, associated funerary object, unassociated funerary object, sacred object, and object of cultural patrimony.  There are also established means and criteria for determining lineal descent or kinship, cultural affiliation, tribal land status or standing, and aboriginal land status or standing.

To read or review definitions of terms, as well as the means and criteria used within the NAGPRA review process, we encourage you to consult the following resources:

  • U-M’s NAGPRA Policies and Procedures
  • The National NAGPRA Office website
  • The National NAGPRA Offices online glossary
  • The NAGPRA law and regulations
To learn more about NAGPRA, please consult the National NAGPRA Office website.
No.  NAGPRA is a U.S. federal law.  As such, it does not apply to objects or collections that originated from locations outside of the United States.  However, the University will review claims and requests concerning objects and collections that originated from locations outside of the U.S. on a case-by-case basis.
For the most current list of repatriations and dispositions completed by the University, please consult the “Progress to Date” page of this website.
We will be posting a reviewable table and/or downloadable PDF spreadsheet of the culturally affiliated collections and UFOs from the State of Michigan.
Information on culturally unidentified collections of human remains (including any associated funerary objects) can be found on the database pages of this website.
We will be posting a reviewable table and/or downloadable PDF spreadsheet of the culturally affiliated collections and UFOs from the State of Michigan.
Any questions related to the NAGPRA process at U-M should be directed to:

Ben Secunda, Ph.D.
NAGPRA Project Manager
University of Michigan Office of Research
4080 Fleming Building
503 S. Thompson
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340
Email: bsecunda@umich.edu
Desk: (734) 647-9085
UMOR Office: (734) 764-1185
FAX: (734) 763-0085

The University has generated forms for filing claims and requests, as well as setting up a consultation visit.

NAGPRA regulations require that the University initiate consultation with any parties that have standing to submit a claim or request for repatriation or disposition regarding specific collections or objects.  Those parties that must be consulted include:

  • Lineal descendants, when known.
  • Officials and traditional religious leaders representing Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations:
    • From whose tribal lands, at the time of removal, the object(s) or collection(s) were removed.
    • That are, or are likely to be, culturally affiliated with the object(s) or collection(s).
    • From whose aboriginal lands the object(s) or collection(s) were removed.

“Lineal descent” and “cultural affiliation” are determined through specific means and criteria outlined in NAGPRA law and regulations.  For more information, you can consult the University’s NAGPRA “Policies and Procedures” manual (see Sections III and V) and the National NAGPRA Office’s website (see federal regulations 43 C.F.R. § 10.2(b) and (e) as well as 43 C.F.R. §§ 10.9, 10.10, and 10.14)

“Tribal” and “aboriginal” land statuses are determined through specific means and criteria outlined in NAGPRA law and regulations.  For more information, you can consult the University’s NAGPRA “Policies and Procedures” manual (see Sections III and V) and the National NAGPRA Office’s website.  These sources include:

  • National NAGPRA Office’s Native American Consultation Database
  • “Indian Land Areas Judicially Established (Map and Index),” created from Indian Claims Commission and United States Court of Claims decisions.
  • “Indian Land Cessions, Land Cession Treaties and Executive Orders (spreadsheets),” created from the schedule and maps of Charles Royce.
  • Schedule and Maps of Charles Royce, Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1896-1897.
  • Charles J. Kappler, ed. and comp., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties.

Potential lineal descendants and tribal representatives may submit evidence that uses independent and supplemental research and sources to substantiate standing for consultation.  Evidence used for this purpose must comport with NAGPRA law and regulations.  The University will review all submissions on a case-by-case basis.

Please consult the database on this website.

Please note that some collections or objects may already have been repatriated or dispositioned.  For the most current list of repatriations or dispositions completed by the University, please consult the “Progress to Date” link on this website.

Yes.  Potential lineal descendants and tribal representatives may submit evidence that uses independent and supplemental research and sources to substantiate standing for consultation.  Evidence used for this purpose must comport with NAGPRA law and regulations.  The University will review all submissions on a case-by-case basis.

No.  Costs associated with travel, food, and lodging for potential lineal descendants and tribal representatives conducting a consultation visit are the responsibility of those individuals or the tribes they represent.  However, the University does typically cover the cost of lunches for consultation visits that last one full day or longer.  Likewise, the University does gladly cover some of the ancillary costs associated with accommodating culturally or spiritually based requests and practices (e.g., preparing collections and objects in a specific manner, deactivating smoke alarms to accommodate ceremonies, etc.).

Costs associated with the physical transfer of collections and objects being repatriated or dispositioned are also primarily the responsibility of the individuals or tribes accepting the transfers.  However, the University does gladly cover packaging and shipping requests of a reasonable nature and cost, as well as some of the ancillary costs associated with accommodating culturally or spiritually based requests and practices.  Such requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis and must be mutually agreed to by the University and the individuals authorized to accept transfer on behalf of the lineal descendants or tribes.

While the University does not cover any of the direct costs associated with consultations or transfers, we do appreciate that costs can be a concern for potential lineal descendants or tribes otherwise interested in carrying out consultations and completing transfers.  In light of these concerns, the University can offer alternative arrangements to an “in-person” consultation visit to those potential lineal descendants or tribal representatives interested in conducting NAGPRA consultations.  Consultations can be conducted by arranging teleconferences or video conferences (e.g., Skype), exchanging copied files and data, etc.  Potential lineal descendants and tribal representatives interested in pursuing such alternatives should contact the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager to explore options.

Finally, tribes and tribal representatives should be aware that the National NAGPRA Office has funds that may be available to offset the costs associated with both consultations and transfers.  Details regarding the National NAGPRA Office’s grant funding programs can be found on their website.

On request, the University will draft letters of support for tribes and tribal representatives interested in submitting grant proposals for these available funds.  If you would like to discuss obtaining a letter of support for a consultation grant proposal or a letter of authorization for a transfer grant proposal from the University, please contact its NAGPRA Project Manager for assistance.