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Repatriation Office
 
Department of Anthropology  
Home | What is Repatriation? | Consultation & Repatriation | Collections | Repatriation Reports | FAQ | Contact
Detail of Algonquin Design (NMNH catalog no. E357969a)
Frequently Asked Questions
GENERAL QUESTIONS
bulletHow can I contact the Repatriation Office?
bulletWhat does repatriation mean?
bulletAre copies of completed repatriation reports available to the public?
bulletIs the Smithsonian Institution subject to NAGPRA?
bulletWhat other Native American resources are available at the National Museum of Natural History?
bulletWhat other Native American resources are available in Washington, DC?
bulletHow can I learn more about repatriation?
REPATRIATION REQUESTS
bulletHow does my tribe arrange a consultation visit?
bulletDoes the National Museum of Natural History provide funding for consultations and repatriations?
bulletWhat happens during a repatriation consultation?
bulletWho is eligible to make a repatriation claim to the National Museum of Natural History through the Repatriation Office?
bulletHow does my tribe make a repatriation claim?
bulletIf my tribe submits a request to the National Museum of Natural History, will that cover repatriation from the other Smithsonian museums as well?
bulletHow can a non-federally recognized tribe participate in the repatriation process at the National Museum of Natural History?
QUESTIONS ABOUT COLLECTIONS
bulletDoes the Repatriation Office offer internships and research opportunities for Native Americans?
bulletHow many objects at the National Museum of Natural History fall under repatriation legislation?
bulletWhat is the total number of human remains in the National Museum of Natural History and what portion of them are Native American?
bulletHow many Native American human remains have already been repatriated?
bulletHow many Native American objects have already been repatriated?
GENERAL QUESTIONS

QUESTION: How can I contact the Repatriation Office?
ANSWER: You can contact the Repatriation Office by writing to: Repatriation Office National Museum of Natural History 10 th & Constitution Avenue NW CE 139 MRC 138 P.O. Box 37012 Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 Phone: 202-633-1899, Fax: 202-786-2728

Or, by e-mailing the Repatriation Program Manager at billeckb@si.edu

Tribal representatives are encouraged to contact the Case Officers responsible for the regions of interest to that tribe. See the Contact Us page.

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QUESTION: What does repatriation mean?
ANSWER: In the broad sense, “repatriation” means “the return to the country of origin.” For museums, repatriation applies more specifically to the return of control of human remains and cultural objects that meet certain criteria as funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony to tribal communities. To learn more, see the What is Repatriation? page.

QUESTION: Are copies of completed repatriation reports available to the public?
ANSWER: Yes. All federally recognized tribes received copies of ethnology summary reports in 1996 and inventories of archaeological and physical anthropology collections in 1998. Additional copies are available to tribal representatives from the Repatriation Office. Copies of repatriation case reports may also be requested by tribal representatives from the Repatriation Office and by members of the public through interlibrary loan from the John Wesley Powell Library of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.

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QUESTION: Is the Smithsonian Institution subject to NAGPRA?
ANSWER: No. Instead, the Smithsonian Institution is subject to the repatriation provisions within the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAI Act) of 1989, as amended in 1996. Implementation procedures for the NMAI Act at the museum follows the National Museum of Natural History's repatriation policy. The Smithsonian is not subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which was passed in 1990 and affects all other institutions and agencies that receive federal funds.

QUESTION: What other Native American resources are available at the National Museum of Natural History?
ANSWER: The National Museum of Natural History is also home to the Arctic Studies Center and the American Indian program, which work closely with Native American communities, and the National Anthropological Archives, which houses photographs and documents relating to Native peoples. See our Related Links page.

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QUESTION: What other Native American resources are available in Washington, DC?
ANSWER: The National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife Studies, the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, and the National Archives also have Native American collections, archives and recordings. See our Related Links page.

QUESTION: How can I learn more about repatriation?
ANSWER: Explore this web site further and check out these related links.

REPATRIATION REQUESTS

QUESTION: How does my tribe arrange a consultation visit?
ANSWER: Contact the Case Officer who is responsible for the region of interest to your tribe. See our Contact Us page.

QUESTION: Does the National Museum of Natural History provide funding for consultations and repatriations?
ANSWER: Yes. Federally recognized tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations and Alaskan Native Villages are eligible for grants supporting consultation visits to the National Museum of Natural History for up to four days for two representatives per tribe. The Repatriation Office funds the transportation of remains and objects being returned and grants are available for up to two representatives for up to two days. Applications for travel grants can be found on this website.

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QUESTION: What happens during a repatriation consultation?
ANSWER: Consultations vary widely depending on the interests of the groups approaching the National Museum of Natural History. Typically, after being contacted by a tribe, the Repatriation Office exchanges information about the collections and the tribe decides what they would like to accomplish, or learn more about, during their visit. Tribal representatives and museum staff meet to discuss the issues and learn more about each other. Then the representatives visit the collections to examine cultural objects and archival records to learn more about the materials in the care of the museum and gather information relevant to their interests. Visit the Consultation & Repatriation Page to learn more about what happens during a consultation.

QUESTION: Who is eligible to make a repatriation claim to the National Museum of Natural History through the Repatriation Office?
ANSWER: Only U.S. federally recognized tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations and Alaskan Native Villages, and lineal descendants have standing to make repatriation requests under the federal repatriation legislation. Visit the Repatriation Process page to learn more.

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QUESTION: How does my tribe make a repatriation claim?
ANSWER: It is always best to start by contacting the Case Officer responsible for your region of interest. Because the repatriation process is part of a government-to-government relationship, the formal request for repatriation must come from a recognized tribal official and be on the official letterhead of the tribal government. A tribe may request repatriation of specific human remains or objects from a specific site or region or request those remains and objects that can be affiliated to them regardless of their locality of origin. See the Repatriation Process page to learn more about the repatriation process.

QUESTION: If my tribe submits a request to the National Museum of Natural History, will that cover repatriation from other Smithsonian museums as well?
ANSWER: No. Because the museums within the Smithsonian Institution operate independently, a separate repatriation request must be made to each museum. The other museums have separate policies and guidelines for repatriation which differ from those of the National Museum of Natural History. For contact information for the National Museum of the American Indian’s repatriation office, visit their site.

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QUESTION: How can a non-federally recognized tribe participate in the repatriation process at the National Museum of Natural History?
ANSWER: Repatriation requests from Native Americans that are not federally recognized are not considered by the National Museum of Natural History Repatriation Office. Non-federally recognized tribes have worked with federally recognized tribes to participate in the repatriation process at the National Museum of Natural History. If the non-federally recognized tribe wants to formally participate in repatriation consultations or repatriations at the National Museum of Natural History, the museum requires a letter of support from the federally recognized tribe.

QUESTIONS ABOUT COLLECTIONS

QUESTION: Does the Repatriation Office offer internships and research opportunities for Native Americans?
ANSWER:Yes. A wide range of internship and research opportunities are available for Native Americans interested in working with the Repatriation Office. Volunteers and unfunded internships supporting the mission and activities of the Repatriation Office can be arranged by contacting the Repatriation Office. Funded internships are available for Native American college students through the Native American Awards Program and the Minority Awards Program of the Smithsonian's Office of Fellowships. The Visiting Scholar Program of the Office of Fellowships also supports Native researchers that are not university students.

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QUESTION: How many objects at the National Museum of Natural History fall under repatriation legislation?
ANSWER: A wide range of objects in the museum’s collections have the potential of being claimed by a tribe as a funerary object, sacred object, or object of cultural patrimony. The National Museum of Natural History collections include 225,000 catalog records for archaeological objects and 57,000 Native American ethnological catalog records from the U.S. Each catalog record may contain from one to several thousand items.

QUESTION: What is the total number of human remains in the National Museum of Natural History and what portion of them are Native American?
ANSWER: When the repatriation legislation was passed, the National Museum of Natural History had approximately 33,000 sets of human skeletal remains, about 19,250 of which are Native American.

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QUESTION: How many Native American human remains have already been repatriated?
ANSWER: The National Museum of Natural History has currently offered for repatriation the remains of over 6,000 individuals. Please go to our webpage Repatriation of Anthropology Collections to see an up to date summary of human remains and objects that have been offered for repatriation and completed repatriations statistics.

QUESTION: How many Native American objects have already been repatriated?
ANSWER: The National Museum of Natural History has currently offered well over 200,000 funerary objects and 55 sacred objects or objects of cultural patrimony for repatriation. Please go to our webpage Repatriation of Anthropology Collections to see an up to date summary of human remains and objects that have been offered for repatriation and completed repatriations statistics.

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