Maui News

Native Graves Protection Act Subject of Hearing

June 15, 2011, 7:52 AM HST
* Updated June 15, 11:51 AM
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By Wendy Osher

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka., Image courtesy Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

A U.S. Senate Committee hearing tomorrow will examine the successes and barriers made to date in repatriating Native remains, funerary, sacred, and patrimonial objects.

The  Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold the oversight hearing on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) tomorrow afternoon.

Witnesses will explore how federal agencies and museums have progressed, and what additional policy considerations are necessary to ensure burial rights and protections for indigenous people.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), the Chairman of the Committe, will host the hearing entitled: “Finding Our Way Home: Achieving the Policy Goals of NAGPRA.”

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NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items to lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. The Act also establishes a committee to monitor actions, and facilitate the resolution of disputes involving repatriation.

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Since its enactment in 1990, there have been over 40,000 human remains, 1.1 million funerary objects, 5,500 sacred objects, and 2,100 patrimonial objects found eligible for repatriation under NAGPRA by museums and Federal agencies in the U.S.

The hearing will also examine the implementation of the National Museum of American Indian (NMAI) Act, and its impact on the repatriation of Native American cultural items. The NMAI established the museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution, prescribing laws and procedures to govern repatriation.

*** Supporting information courtesy U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

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