Effective September 15, 2020, as part of our commitment to NAGPRA and to the concerns of Tribal Nations, the university will implement a moratorium on research, teaching, display, imaging, and circulation of human remains and cultural items that are potentially subject to NAGPRA, including all on-site or loaned collections, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

As a federally funded land-grant institution, the university has an ethical and legal responsibility to acknowledge the Tribal Nations on whose land we reside and to curate and repatriate Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony (collectively, “cultural items”) in a respectful, dignified, and legally compliant manner. The university has begun the process of consulting with Tribal Nations regarding human remains and cultural items in university collections in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (25 U.S.C. § 3001 et seq., 43 CFR Part 10; collectively, “NAGPRA”).

The moratorium will remain in effect until the university’s NAGPRA Advisory Committee establishes procedures for review of access requests. It prohibits all research, teaching, display, imaging and circulation of NAGPRA materials and collections. The moratorium was developed in consultation with the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

The NAGPRA Office is responsible for the University’s inventory, documentation, consultation, and repatriation efforts under NAGPRA. Its work to fulfill the university’s  legal obligations is exempted from this moratorium. Certain projects, particularly those that have received explicit tribal permissions, may be eligible for interim review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. Their recommendations will be considered for approval by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, in consultation with the NAGPRA Officer.

Please note the following definitions under NAGPRA

  • “Native American” means of, or relating to, a tribe, people, or culture indigenous to the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
  • “Human remains” means the physical remains of the body of a person of Native American ancestry. The term does not include remains or portions of remains that may be reasonably determined to have been freely given or naturally shed by the individual from whose body they were obtained, such as hair made into ropes or nets.
  • “Cultural items” means, collectively, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
  • “Funerary objects” means items that, as part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, are reasonably believed to have been placed intentionally at the time of death or later with or near individual human remains.
  • “Sacred objects” means items that are specific ceremonial objects needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their present-day adherents.
  • “Objects of cultural patrimony” means items having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization itself, rather than property owned by an individual tribal or organization member. These objects are of such central importance that they may not be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual tribal or organization member.

Please note the following definitions for the purposes of this moratorium

  • “Research” means utilizing NAGPRA materials to collect or synthesize information that may develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Activities that meet this definition constitute research for the purposes of this moratorium, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program that is considered research for other purposes (adapted from the University IRB definition of research).
  • “Teaching” means utilizing NAGPRA materials for educational purposes. This includes both online and in-person educational formats, and when possible applies to images of NAGPRA materials as well as the materials themselves.
  • “Imaging” means creating a visual representation or facsimile. This refers to hand drawings as well as imaging technologies, such as photography, photogrammetry, and 3D scanning.
  • “Display” means exhibiting NAGPRA materials for view or study. This applies to displays both within and outside of museums, and to both digital and in-person display.
  • “Circulation” means loans, transfers, or other legal or physical exchange of NAGPRA materials both within and outside of the campus community. When possible, this applies to digital facsimiles as well as the materials themselves.
  • “Collection” means any set or group of Native American human remains and/or cultural items in the physical possession or legal control of the university. This may include materials that were excavated or removed during a survey or excavation, were purchased or otherwise acquired from private collectors or vendors, and includes associated records that are prepared or assembled in connection with these collections (adapted from 36 CFR Part 79). Each collection may be made up of single or multiple objects.

Examples of additional prohibited activities relating to NAGPRA collections

The university has received several requests from Tribal Nations to prohibit specific activities and intends to honor those requests. These activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Imaging of NAGPRA materials (photography, photogrammetry, 3D scanning, etc.).
  • Destructive sampling of NAGPRA materials for laboratory testing.

The interim review process for research + teaching requests

This moratorium will remain in effect until the NAGPRA Advisory Committee develops procedures for reviewing requests for access to NAGPRA collections.

Until these procedures are established, requests for research or teaching access should be directed to the NAGPRA Program Officer ( The NAGPRA Advisory Committee will review requests on a case-by-case basis. Requests must include a detailed description of the project, including:

  1. Which collection(s) will be accessed.
  2. Who legally controls the collection(s).
  3. How the collection(s) will be utilized (e.g. research methods).
  4. The duration of the project.
  5. All personnel involved in the project.
  6. Who is funding the project (if applicable).
  7. Records of consultation with Tribal Nations related to the project (if applicable).
  8. Plans for presentation or publication of resulting information (if applicable).

If previously unknown NAGPRA collections are identified, this moratorium goes into effect immediately with respect to that collection and lasts at least until the collection and associated projects are reviewed by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee.