The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, of 1990 (codified at 25 U.S. Code 3001 et seq.) and companion federal regulations (43 CFR Part 10) establish a process for museums and other institutions that receive federal funds to return certain human remains, funerary and sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to Native American tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and lineal descendants that demonstrate requisite relationships to the remains and other items.

In keeping with NAGPRA and the values of our institution, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is fully committed to the repatriation of our Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian collections. In this process, it is our priority to engage in consultation with tribal communities and lineal descendants.

Critically, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign recognizes that compliance with NAGPRA is not only about mandatory legal requirements, but also about best practices in research, education, and our responsibilities to Native American Nations whose relatives and objects are held within these collections. We recognize the importance of similar conversations at a global level, including documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and relevant UNESCO declarations. Our campus NAGPRA efforts are also framed by Federal laws such as the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S. Code 470) and by Illinois State laws, including especially the Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act (20 ILCS 3440) and the Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act (20 ILCS 3435). The University maintains a campus-wide NAGPRA Policy in addition to the standing procedures outlined in this document.

The goal of the NAGPRA procedures is to ensure campus-wide compliance with the NAGPRA policy in the Campus Administrative Manual. They have been developed by the campus NAGPRA Advisory Committee in consultation with members of the campus community and representatives from Native Nations.

Individual researchers or units which are found to be non-compliant with campus NAGPRA policies and procedures will be referred to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation for detailed review and further action.


Established in 2020, the NAGPRA office ensures campus-wide compliance with NAGPRA and related laws. The Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, in conjunction with the NAGPRA Program Officer, has the authority to establish NAGPRA policies and procedures and to make final decisions related to NAGPRA compliance.

Advisory Committee

The NAGPRA Advisory Committee is appointed annually by the Chancellor and is a standing committee composed of campus members with a wide range of expertise and experience, including Anthropology, Religion, Law, History, American Indian Studies, Museum Studies, Political Science, Genetics, etc. It includes representatives from campus programs and departments with current NAGPRA-eligible collections and will take into consideration the potential needs of any additional departments that discover they have collections that fall under NAGPRA upon campus inventory. The Advisory Committee prioritizes campus members with experience and knowledge of NAGPRA as well as individuals with connections to Native American communities and experience doing collaborative work with Native nations. The Chancellor appoints a Chair or Co-Chairs of the Advisory Committee from the UIUC faculty and/or staff. The NAGPRA Officer is an ex-officio member.

The role of the Advisory Committee is to: develop campus procedures to guide in the protection of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony consistent with laws, regulations, and best practices; develop associated communications strategies and informational materials to clarify expectations for employees and units; advise the NAGPRA officer on other matters as requested; and advise the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on tribal relations and the process for repatriation of remains and objects.

I. Definitions and Terminology

These categories are central to the process of NAGPRA compliance. The definitions below clarify what the UIUC NAGPRA office and procedures mean when using these terms. Please note that the category of ‘beings’ has been added to several categories. This addition is in recognition that these categories may include those classified as animate beings within Native communities and differences between the grammatical systems of many Native American languages and English. The addition of ‘beings’ to these categories will allow descendant communities to participate in consultation and repatriation processes without having to reduce animate beings to objects, which in some religious systems may be prohibited. This change also allows us to recognize that non-human animals are frequently found in NAGPRA collections and ceremonial contexts and are not objects, but the remains of living beings.

  • Human Remains: The physical remains of the body of a person of Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native ancestry, including all substances derived from such remains. This includes, but is not limited to, biological samples taken for DNA extraction, radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and any derivatives thereof.
  • Funerary Objects or Beings: Objects or beings that are reasonably believed to have been part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture and/or placed with or near individual human remains either at the time of death or later; except those other items exclusively made for burial purposes or to contain human remains shall be considered as associated funerary objects.
  • Objects or Beings of Cultural Patrimony: An object or being having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual regardless of whether the individual is a member of the Native American tribe, Native Hawaiian organization, or Alaska Native corporation and such object shall have been considered inalienable by such group at the time the object was separated from such group.
  • Sacred and Ceremonial Objects or Beings: Specific ceremonial objects or beings which are needed by Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native citizens and/or religious leaders for the practice of traditional ceremonies and/or religions by their present-day practitioners, as well as objects which are reasonably believed to have been used for traditional ceremonies and/or religions in the past for which there may not be present-day practitioners.
  • NAGPRA-Eligible: Any Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native objects, collections, or beings are considered NAGPRA-eligible and are subject to tribal consultation in order to determine NAGPRA eligibility.

II. Procedures

A. Communications

All communication with representatives of Native Nations, including communications relating to NAGPRA, must comply with the university’s Communications Protocol with Native Nations. NAGPRA-related communications should be directed to the NAGPRA Program Officer within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation (OVCRI), who will coordinate with the Tribal liaison within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to comply with the Protocol.

B. Acquisition of New NAGPRA-Eligible Collections

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will not accept new NAGPRA-eligible acquisitions, including transfers, donations, or bequests, of any potentially NAGPRA-eligible collections without written approval from the NAGPRA Office. Long- and short-term loans are addressed in section D below.

The University of Illinois Foundation and all university employees responsible for gifts and bequests should work with the NAGPRA Office regarding potential gifts and bequests to the university to determine whether they may be NAGPRA-eligible. Unmonitored acceptance of such collections impacts the availability of appropriate space for storage, research, and consultation increases the burden of legal compliance on the university, and neglects our ethical obligations to tribal partners.

NAGPRA-eligible collections that are acquired through research or fieldwork conducted by university faculty, staff, and students are subject to these procedures. Personnel should consult with the NAGPRA Office during the development of such projects to incorporate a plan for the appropriate management of these collections in accordance with best practices, relevant State and Federal laws, and university policies and procedures.

University personnel may submit requests for approval of the acquisition of NAGPRA-eligible collections to the NAGPRA Office. These requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may require review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. All NAGPRA-eligible collections for which acquisition requests are accepted will immediately be subject to all university policies and procedures related to NAGPRA.

If a collection is identified as potentially NAGPRA-eligible, the responsible unit must notify the NAGPRA Office within 30 days.

C. Internal Transfers of NAGPRA Collections

All potentially NAGPRA-eligible collections must be reported to the NAGPRA Office by university personnel. Upon reporting, the NAGPRA Office will determine whether the collection is subject to NAGPRA through consultation with tribal partners. This process may require review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee.

If a collection is determined to be NAGPRA-eligible, responsibility for NAGPRA compliance and care will be transferred to the NAGPRA Office via an internal transfer. This includes fiscal, care/curation, compliance, and oversight responsibilities. Whenever possible, the collection will also be physically transferred to the NAGPRA curation space to facilitate consultation, culturally-sensitive housing, and documentation.

D. Curation and Collections Management Agreements and MOUs

University NAGPRA efforts may impact or be impacted by existing or upcoming agreements or Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the University and external parties. All such agreements are between the University and external agencies, controlling entities, and other parties, and must be approved through the appropriate University channels and signed by a designated University official.

These agreements do not replace the requirement(s) of approval from the NAGPRA Office outlined in these procedures. Personnel, projects, and collections impacted by University NAGPRA efforts must receive relevant NAGPRA Office approvals even if such work falls under existing agreements or MOUs. Work falling under an existing agreement or MOU is eligible for expedited review of a maximum of 2 weeks by the NAGPRA Office, but may be subject to further review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. Proposals for this type of work should be submitted to the NAGPRA Office for review as early as possible in the proposal process.

E. Incoming and Outgoing Loans

Written approval from the NAGPRA Office is required for all incoming and outgoing loans of NAGPRA-eligible collections. This policy ensures that the NAGPRA Office and the OVCRI are aware of all NAGPRA-eligible collections in the university’s control or custody and the current location of those collections. All requests for incoming or outgoing loans of NAGPRA-eligible collections will be subject to review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee. In each case, notification of the loan will be sent by the NAGPRA Office to all relevant tribal partners as outlined in the loan and/or curation agreement(s).

The university will consider loaning NAGPRA-eligible collections under its legal control to external parties on a case-by-case basis. These requests must include written permission from the Board of Trustees as well as from affiliated or potentially-affiliated Native nations.

The university will consider receiving incoming loans of externally-controlled NAGPRA-eligible collections for research, teaching, or exhibition purposes on a case-by-case basis. These requests must include written permission from the institution(s) which controls the collection, and must specifically state that the collection has undergone the full regulatory process required by NAGPRA and its companion regulations. If this has not occurred, the controlling partner must provide written justification for why this has not occurred. Detailed information about what aspects of research, teaching, and exhibition are and are not allowed by the controlling institution should be included as part of the request. Requests must be approved before the loan agreement is finalized and prior to the arrival of the collection on campus.

The university will consider requests for university curation of externally-controlled collections on a case-by-case basis. These requests must include written permission from the controlling partner, and must specifically state that the collection has undergone the full regulatory process required by NAGPRA and its corresponding regulations. If this has not occurred, the controlling partner must provide written justification for why this has not occurred.

F. Tribal Consultation for NAGPRA-Eligible Collections

NAGPRA requires the university to consult with federally recognized tribes on a government-to-government basis. Tribal consultation regarding the University NAGPRA collections will follow the Communications Protocol with Native Nations outlined by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Under this protocol, all NAGPRA-related tribal communications will be routed through the NAGPRA Office. Individual units are not authorized to initiate NAGPRA-related communications on behalf of the university.

The NAGPRA Office will consult with designated representatives of federally recognized tribal nations and with the National NAGPRA Program. Consultation may take the form of in-person meetings, emails, phone or video calls, etc. The NAGPRA Program Officer is responsible for maintaining records of decisions made regarding university NAGPRA collections during such consultation meetings and will communicate those findings to all involved parties.

The university will consider NAGPRA requests made by non-federally recognized groups only when they have been invited to participate in consultation(s) by a federally recognized tribe.

G. Use of and Access to University NAGPRA Collections

The 2023 amendment to the NAGPRA regulations (43 CFR Part 10) requires free, prior, and informed consent for any access to, research of, or exhibition of NAGPRA collections*. Access to spaces that house confirmed NAGPRA collections will be limited to NAGPRA Office staff, tribal partners, and those who receive written permission from the NAGPRA Office. Such collections will be documented and reported by NAGPRA Office staff through consultation with tribal partners.

Access to NAGPRA collections for ceremonial or religious purposes by tribal partners will be accommodated to the fullest extent possible. Please contact the NAGPRA Program Officer to discuss advance arrangements for such activities.

Use of NAGPRA-eligible collections for research, teaching, exhibition, imaging, and/or circulation is not permitted without written permission from the NAGPRA Office and relevant tribal nations. The use of loaned collections also requires the written permission of the controlling partner. Requests for use of NAGPRA-eligible collections may be made using the form located at All requests are subject to review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee and/or an ad hoc Tribal Review Committee, which will respond to requests within 30 days of the date of the request. Requests which fall under existing agreements or MOUs may be eligible for an expedited 15-day review process.

In the event that previously unknown NAGPRA-eligible collections are identified, they will immediately fall under a use moratorium until relevant tribal nations are identified. These collections and associated projects will be subject to review by the NAGPRA Advisory Committee.

*Interim guidance, to be approved by NAGPRA Advisory Committee.