Repatriation and NAGPRA Compliance

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:

  • 130 Federal Register Notices Published
  • 81 Repatriations Completed
  • 17 Native Nations, 1 foreign government (Costa Rica), 1 other group (Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson)
  • 3,477 Sets Human Remains
  • 64,794 Funerary Objects
  • 11 Sacred Objects (SO)
  • 224 Objects of Cultural Patrimony (OCP)
  • 110 Items considered both SOs and OCPs

All remaining individuals and their belongings in ASM’s care have been reported to National NAGPRA and to potentially culturally affiliated tribes. ASM, in consultation with tribal communities, is working actively to prepare these remaining individuals and cultural items for transfer at a pace that is manageable for the receiving tribes.

Following open discussion with Arizona’s Native Nations regarding the repatriation of these remaining collections, we anticipate that the physical transfer of all NAGPRA-eligible collections will continue until 2030, at which time we will have attained 100% completion. Repatriations are painstaking, conducted slowly, methodically, and with the utmost respect and commitment to descendant communities.

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. 



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

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ASM's History of Repatriation 
Repatriation is about Relationships