What is repatriation?

Repatriation is the process by which museums and other federally funded entities to return human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony that meet the requirements outlined in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and are claimed by a tribe or tribes.

What is NAGPRA?

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a Federal law enacted in 1990 to resolve and restore the rights of Native American lineal descendants and tribes to human remains and cultural items. NAGPRA provides a legal framework and pathway for repatriation processes to take place.

NAGPRA requires museums, agencies, and universities that accept Federal funding to consult with Native American tribes regarding the repatriation of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony in museum collections, or discovered on Federal or Tribal lands after 1990. 

Repatriation at the Oshkosh Public Museum 

The Oshkosh Public Museum (OPM) is fully committed to the ethical and legal principles of NAGPRA and considers this law to be the foundation of appropriate museum practice. After the law’s inception, the OPM hired a staff member to begin its outlined activities. These include an inventory of Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Museum’s collections. In 1993, this inventory was sent to officials of ten Tribal Nations currently or formerly located within the state of Wisconsin. Beginning in 1995, Tribal Nations and consortiums began inquiring in response to the 1993 Federal Inventory. During this period, the OPM facilitated consultations, visits, and communications with Tribal Nations. Officials were given open access to any Native American cultural collections that might have been within the scope of NAGPRA, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony in the Museum’s collections. 

Furthermore, the OPM has ensured that exhibitions like People of the Waters are crafted in dialogue and in collaboration with Tribal partners to ensure their voices and perspectives are included in our narratives.

OPM’s Collections

The OPM currently cares for cultural items and Ancestral Remains. In most cases, these were collected through archaeological excavations, which concluded by 1965. We continue to publish inventories in the Department of the Interior's database of human remains and associated funerary objects that have not completed the NAGPRA process. These collections holdings continue to be made available for return by the OPM to claims made by Tribal Nations. The OPM regularly receives NAGPRA inquiries from throughout the United States. These inquiries are processed as quickly and sensitively as possible.

The OPM’s Collections Management Policy and other Policies that govern the Museum’s Collections activities outline the OPM’s ongoing commitment to adhering to NAGPRA, as well as our valued relationships with Tribal Nations. These policies prohibit active collection of human remains, funerary objects, and known sacred objects. In addition, OPM does not make items accessible for public research or access without specific consent from culturally affiliated Tribal Nations.

The OPM remains committed to fulfilling Tribal Nations’ claims to repatriate their cultural heritage. Repatriation is an important pathway for the OPM to acknowledge past injustices and take action. Through this process, we hope to continue improving and expanding our relationships and collaborations with Native communities.

Submit a request

Contact Anna Cannizzo, Assistant Director & Chief Curator at 920.236.5765 or via email