In 1990, Congress passed NAGPRA to address the rights of lineal descendants of Native American tribes (including Alaska Native villages) and Native Hawaiians to their funerary and sacred objects, human remains, and objects of cultural patrimony. In short, NAGPRA supports the safe return of significant artifacts from federally-funded institutions to their rightful owners. NAGPRA compliance requires ongoing effort and oversight. At Fort Lewis College, this is managed by the President and a specially appointed NAGPRA committee.
Additionally, given the unique history of FLC as a Native American-serving institution, the college's commitment to honoring NAGPRA, and the people whose rights it protects, goes well beyond the letter of the law to include community collaborations and public education.
Throughout its history, FLC has acquired items affected by NAGPRA through donations, purchases and archaeological activities. In 2013, FLC transferred control of many of these items to the Hopi Tribe, including the remains of 91 individuals. FLC is continuing efforts to transfer control of objects and remains from collections in the Anthropology department and the Center of Southwest Studies.
Some important accomplishments of the NAGPRA Committee in 2017-2018:
- President Dene Thomas appointed 5 new committee members to represent the local Ute nations and the CCIA
- President Thomas also appointed an FLC Native American student to the committee
- We consolidated and centralized many of the college's NAGPRA-related files in a new NAGPRA office
- We were awarded a National Park Service NAGPRA Consultation and Documentation Grant for $89,878
- We established the college’s first clear process for FLC NAGPRA compliance activities
- We revised the FLC NAGPRA policy according to schedule.
The National Park Service grant supports FLC’s work in documenting existing collections and consultation with potentially culturally affiliated Native American Tribal nations to determine the affiliation of NAGPRA items in its collections.