Repatriation and NAGPRA Compliance

Byron Cummings, Arizona State Museum's first director, conducted the state's first repatriation in the 1930s. Since then, ASM has worked with tribal colleagues on issues of disturbance, recovery, documentation, respectful treatment, and return of human remains and associated funerary items. The United States Congress enacted the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in November 1990, following a summer of testimony taken from stakeholders, including that of then-ASM Director Raymond H. Thompson (1964-97), who had been asked by the American Association (now Alliance) of Museums to represent the country's major institutions. Current ASM Director Patrick D. Lyons (2013- ) served on the national NAGPRA Review Committee from 2016 to 2020, a group charged with monitoring and reviewing repatriation activities across the country. 


Arizona State Museum's Repatriation Office manages one of the most active repatriation programs in the country, complying with federal law and administering the statutes pertaining to human remains and associated objects encountered on state and private land in Arizona (A.R.S. § 41-844 and § 41-865, respectively).

Repatriation totals 1986 to date:

  •    124        Federal Register Notices Published
  •      78        Repatriations Completed
  •      17        Native American Tribes, 1 foreign government (Costa Rica), 1 other group (Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson)
  •     3,188    Sets of Human Remains
  •     63,118  Funerary Objects
  •     11          Sacred Objects (SOs)
  •     224        Objects of Cultural Patrimony (OCPs)
  •     110        Items considered both SOs and OCPs

Cristin Lucas, M.A.
Repatriation Coordinator

Stacy L. Ryan, M.A.
Assistant Repatriation Coordinator

James T. Watson, Ph.D.
Curator of Bioarchaeology

Arizona State Museum / University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210026
Tucson, AZ  85721-0026

Related videos
ASM's History of Repatriation 
Repatriation is about Relationships