The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA (Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 304) was enacted on November 16, 1990. The law requires federally funded institutions and museums to consult with lineal descendants, federally recognized Native American tribes (including Alaska Native villages), and Native Hawaiian organizations, in order to return Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants and descendant communities. Depending on the category of cultural item in question and its cultural affiliation, NAGPRA provides a process to ascertain cultural affiliation and to transfer human remains and other cultural items to their rightful owners. A policy and process also exists for the treatment and disposition of culturally unidentified human remains.

Because Fort Lewis College receives Federal funding, it is subject to NAGPRA and all its amendments, regulations, procedures, and processes. Compliance with NAGPRA is the responsibility of the College as a whole under the leadership of the President. Because potentially NAGPRA-related items may at any time be identified in College collections, and because inadvertent discoveries may take place at any time on college property, NAGPRA compliance is considered to be an ongoing process with no programmable conclusion.

In addition, the unique history of the College as a Native American-serving institution compels it to proactively strive to go beyond the letter of the law in its compliance with NAGPRA. These efforts entail attention to collaboration, social justice, reciprocity, equal exchanges, and public education about the importance of the statute and its ongoing relevance to the College and its mission.

FLC has acquired Native American human remains and other cultural items throughout its history that fall under NAGPRA largely by means of: a) donations; b) purchases; c) archaeological field school and cultural resource management activities undertaken by FLC staff and faculty as well as by independent contractors affiliated with the college; and d) inadvertent discoveries made on the FLC campus grounds.

In 2013 Fort Lewis College transferred control of the remains of 91 ancestral individuals plus the funerary objects associated with them to the Hopi Tribe for reburial with the assistance of the Pueblo of Acoma. Remaining items of concern today at FLC include: a) additional Native American human remains and associated funerary objects under the care of the Department of Anthropology; and b) Native American cultural objects, including unassociated funerary objects, under the care of the Center of Southwest Studies (CSWS). Some important collections that are the current focus as we work with the assistance of a NAGPRA grant are the Charles McLain and Homer Root collections, as well as collections of special significance to the Ute and Zuni peoples.

For a more detailed historical timeline of FLC compliance activities, please click here to contact the FLC NAGPRA Liaison.