The Native American Repatriation Review Committee was established in 1990 under the National Museum of the American Indian Act (Public Laws 101-185 and 104-278). The Committee consists of seven members appointed from nominations submitted by federally-recognized Native American tribes, and Native American, anthropological, and museum organizations. Two Review Committee members are required by law to be traditional Indian religious leaders.
The Committee was established to monitor and review the inventory, identification, and return of human remains and funerary objects and its responsibilities were later expanded to include sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. The duties of the Committee are advisory. Specifically, the Committee's purpose is to ensure that fair and objective consideration and assessment of all relevant evidence with respect to inventory and identification has been made by the Smithsonian Institution.
Upon the request of any affected party, the Committee may review any findings relating to the origin or the return of human remains and cultural objects. The Committee may also assist the Secretary of the Smithsonian in facilitating the resolution of any dispute that may arise with respect to the return of such remains or objects. Thus, if any Native American group or Native Hawaiian organization finds that a decision of the Smithsonian regarding a specific request is unacceptable, the group or organization may request that the Committee review the matter and make an independent recommendation to the Secretary of the Smithsonian.
The Committee operates under its by-laws and appendix, as adopted in 2013. The Review Committee meets at least twice annually to monitor and review the progress of the repatriation process at the Smithsonian. It may meet on other occasions to consider specific issues.
The current members of the Review Committee are (from left to right): Ian Thompson, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Darlene Miller (Vice-Chair), Seneca Nation; Vincas Steponaitis, Professor, North Carolina University; Shelby Tisdale, Director of the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College; George Milner, Professor, Pennsylvania State University; Bonnie Newsom (Chair), Penobscot Indian Nation, Eddington, Maine; and Walter Lara, Sr., Yurok Tribe, California.
Past members of the Review Committee include: Roger Anyon (1990-2004), Anthropologist, Tucson, Arizona; Jane Buikstra, Professor, Arizona State University (2005-2012); Richard Dalton, Sr. (1997-2003), Native Village of Hoonah, Alaska; T. J. Ferguson (2005-2012), Anthropologist, Tucson, Arizona; Lynne Goldstein (1990-2004), Professor, Michigan State University; Andrea Hunter (1990-2010), Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Osage Nation, Pawhuska, Oklahoma; John Johnson (2004-2012), Chugach Alaska Corporation, Alaska; Ronald "Sammy" Little Owl (1997-2000), Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota; O. Roland McCook, Sr. (2003-2011), Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation; Timothy Perttula, Archaeologist, Austin, Texas (2013-2015); Russell Thornton (1990-2001), Professor, UCLA; Christy Turner, II (1990-1998); Phillip Walker, Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara (2003-2009); and Gordon Yellowman, Sr., Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (2003-2011).