University of Michigan Office of Research
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Repatriation / Disposition Process

U-M’s NAGPRA Policies and Procedures

Potential claimants and requestors can familiarize themselves with the University’s NAGPRA policies, procedures, and forms by downloading and reviewing U-M’s “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document.

The Vice President for Research, with guidance and recommendations from the University’s NAGPRA Advisory Committee, has implemented this revised and updated set of policies and procedures concerning NAGPRA-related collections and objects currently held at the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology and other collections-holding units. The goal was to establish policies and procedures that comport with NAGPRA law and regulations, while also maintaining sound professional museum practices, and respecting the rights and values of Native peoples and their representatives who visit the Museum and related campus facilities.

U-M’s “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document will continue to be revised and updated as needed. The current version, which the Vice President for Research approved on December 21, 2013, can be downloaded here.

Preparing a Submission

To initiate the NAGPRA Submission Process at U-M, interested lineal descendants and tribes must submit a formal, written claim or request identifying specific collections or objects of interest to them or their tribe. The University has developed databases and tables to assist potential claimants and requestors with this identification process. Additionally, the University has developed downloadable forms to assist potential claimants and requestors with their submissions.

Click on a link to view the list of federally recognized tribes the University has contacted as aboriginal to the State of Michigan.

Click on a link to access forms the University has developed for:

  • NAGPRA Claim and Request Form—Used for submitting a claim or request.
  • Supplemental Signature Page for Jointly Submitted Claims and Requests—Used to record the signatures, names, tribes, and dates of authorized NAGPRA Designees for tribes submitting a claim or request together. Tribes filing jointly should still use the standard “NAGPRA Claim and Request Form” to identify the specific collection(s) and/or object(s) they are claiming or requesting. However, the “Supplemental Signature Page” must accompany the standard “NAGPRA Claim and Request Form” so that the University has written verification that each participating tribe has authorized the joint claim or request.
  • NAGPRA Consultation Visit Request Form—Used for arranging a consultation visit at U-M.
  • NAGPRA Transfer Recipient Authorization Form—Used for identifying and authorizing Transfer Recipients when a collection or object is scheduled for repatriation or disposition to more than one lineal descendant or tribe.

The NAGPRA Submission Process

Click on a link to view a summary of each step:

  1. Submit a Claim or Request
  2. Consultation
  3. Review of Evidence (for claims of kin or cultural affiliation only)
  4. Drafting and Submitting a Notice for Publication
  5. Transfer of Control
  6. Transfer of Possession

Details of each step are summarized below.

1. Submit a Claim or Request

Submitting a Claim

A “claim” is an assertion of kin or cultural affiliation to (1) a particular collection of human remains (including any associated funerary objects) or (2) unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony). Claims also cover an assertion of property ownership in the case of objects.

Please note that:

  • …in order for an individual claimant or family of claimants to be affiliated to a collection or object based on kinship or lineal descent, evidence must be presented in a claim or during consultation that substantiates direct ancestral ties, without interruption, by means of the traditional kinship system of the appropriate Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization, or by the common law system of descent, to a known Native American individual whose remains, funerary objects, or sacred objects are being claimed.
  • …in order for a tribe to be culturally affiliated to a collection or object, evidence must be presented in a claim or during consultation that substantiates a relationship of shared group identity that may be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present-day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group.

Given these requirements, if you are interested in submitting a claim for a collection of human remains (including any associated funerary objects), unassociated funerary object(s), sacred object(s), or object(s) of cultural patrimony, please complete and submit U-M’s NAGPRA Claim and Request Form.

If you have any additional questions about the University’s policies and filing procedures, please refer to the University’s “Policies and Procedures” document available online here or contact the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager.

If you have any questions about federal regulatory guidelines and requirements, please refer to the National NAGPRA Office’s website or contact the appropriate National NAGPRA Officer.

Submitting a claim will initiate the consultation process (Step 2, below).

Submitting a Request

A “request” is typically submitted after a claim and consultation. There are three types of requests you can submit under NAGPRA:

  1. Repatriation of particular collections of kin or culturally affiliated human remains (including any associated funerary objects)
  2. Repatriation of kin or culturally affiliated unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony
  3. Disposition of particular collections of culturally unidentifiable human remains (including any associated funerary objects) if the requesting tribe has tribal or aboriginal status in the state and county where the collections were discovered. (If tribal representatives are interested in seeing where their tribe has standing, they can use our searchable online database or review the sources and guidelines (see Q11 of the FAQ used to create this database as provided by the National NAGPRA Office.

Lineal descendants and federally recognized Indian tribes may submit requests for the repatriation of human remains (including any associated funerary objects) or cultural objects in those cases where kin or cultural affiliation has been substantiated by either the independent determination of U-M experts, or during consultation with potential lineal descendants or tribal representatives. Substantiated claims will proceed directly to a request for repatriation. There is no need for claimants to submit a separate request for repatriation unless U-M specifically asks them to do so.

If you are interested in submitting a request for a collection of human remains (including any associated funerary objects), unassociated funerary object(s), sacred object(s), or object(s) of cultural patrimony, please complete and submit U-M’s NAGPRA Claim and Request Form.

If you have any additional questions about the University’s policies and filing procedures, please refer to the University’s “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document or contact the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager. If you have any questions about federal regulatory guidelines and requirements, please refer to the National NAGPRA Office’s website or contact the appropriate National NAGPRA officer.

Submitting a Request initiates the Consultation process (Step 2, below).

2. Consultation

Claimants and requestors can make arrangements to consult on any objects or collections with which they may have kin or cultural affiliation, or for which they do have tribal or aboriginal land status. Interested claimants and requestors can set up consultations by completing a NAGPRA Consultation Visit Request Form and submitting it to the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager. Consultations need not be conducted in person. The University can make alternative arrangements including a document exchange, teleconference, videoconference (e.g., Skype), or other alternatives that are mutually agreeable. Claimants and requestors should direct all questions related to consultations to the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager.

3. Review of Evidence (for claims of kin or cultural affiliation only)

The University will observe procedures described in its “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document for all claims of kin or cultural affiliation (see Section V, subsections E-H). These procedures were created using guidelines and standards of evaluation set forth in the federal regulations.

The University will routinely treat successful claims as formal requests for repatriation following the review of evidence.

All requests will proceed through Steps 5–7 of the NAGPRA Submission Process as described below.

4. Draft and Submit a Notice for Publication

Once an object or collection is ready to be transferred, the University will draft the appropriate notice using the required template developed by the National NAGPRA Office (click here to see the templates.

  1. Notice of Inventory Completion for human remains (including associated funerary objects).
  2. Notice of Intent to Repatriate for unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

Once the notice has been drafted, the University will, as a courtesy, allow the requestors a 10-business-day period in which to review its contents and offer comment. Once finalized, the University will submit the notice to the National NAGPRA Office to be reviewed and published in the Federal Register. The University will notify the requestors, along with any tribes known to have standing to file a claim or request, once the notice has been published.

After the federally required 30-day public notification period has expired, if no additional claims or requests have been received, the University will move forward with Steps 5–6 of the NAGPRA Submission Process as described below.

5. Transfer of Control

As part of normal procedure, the University will transfer control of (i.e., legal interest in) an object or collection to the requestor(s) the day after the 30-day public notification period has expired provided there have been no additional claims or requests received. At that point, the University will mail a Transfer of Control packet to the requestor(s) who will then become the “Tribal Controller(s).” This packet will include the formal Transfer of Control document as well as information on how the Tribal Controller(s) can make arrangements to complete the Transfer of Possession. (See the Appendices of the University’s “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document for a sample template of the Transfer of Control document.)

In cases involving multiple Tribal Controllers, the Tribal Controllers must identify and mutually agree to Transfer Recipients who will accept the Transfer of Possession on their behalf. The University is required to put the Tribal Controllers in touch with one another and document their final decisions. To help facilitate the communication process among the Tribal Controllers, the University distributes contact directories as part of its Transfer of Control packets. Tribal Controllers are expected to communicate directly with one another as they work to identify and mutually agree to the Transfer Recipient(s). Once the Tribal Controllers have reached an agreement, each Tribal Controller must communicate their decision to the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager in writing. The University has developed a convenient NAGPRA Transfer Recipient Authorization Form to assist with this process. Once the University has verified written authorization of the Transfer Recipient(s) from all of the Tribal Controllers for a particular object or collection, the University’s NAGPRA Project Manager will contact the identified Transfer Recipient(s) to schedule and coordinate the Transfer of Possession.

6. Transfer of Possession

The Transfer of Possession (i.e., physical custody) of an object or collection completes the NAGPRA Submission Process. The NAGPRA Project Manager will facilitate and oversee communication and coordination between the University’s NAGPRA Collections Staff and the Transfer Recipient(s) as they:

  1. Set a date, place, and manner for the reintegration of human remains with any associated funerary objects (if desired).
  2. Set a date, place, and manner for the Transfer of Possession.

The University will require the Transfer Recipient(s) to sign a Transfer of Possession receipt at the time of transfer. The University and each Transfer Recipient who signs the transfer receipt will receive an original, signed draft of the document. (See the Appendices of the University’s “NAGPRA Policies and Procedures” document for a sample template of the Transfer of Possession receipt.)

In transfers involving multiple Tribal Controllers:

  1. Each Tribal Controller is entitled to have representatives present during the reintegration of human remains and any associated funerary objects (if desired).
  2. The University will make copies of its draft of the Transfer of Possession receipt and disseminate them to each of the Tribal Controllers for their records.