Policy on The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)


All Native American human remains and associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony


To provide information and guidance on the federal repatriation law (NAGPRA) and the University’s commitment, goals, and requirements toward compliance with the law, while building respectful and lasting relationships with tribes in the Northeast and beyond.


From the House of Representatives Office of the Law and Revision Counsel, Chapter 32

(A) "associated funerary objects" which shall mean objects that, as a part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death or later, and both the human remains and associated funerary objects are presently in the possession or control of a Federal agency or museum, except that other items exclusively made for burial purposes or to contain human remains shall be considered as associated funerary objects.

(B) "unassociated funerary objects" which shall mean objects that, as a part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death or later, where the remains are not in the possession or control of the Federal agency or museum and the objects can be identified by a preponderance of the evidence as related to specific individuals or families or to known human remains or, by a preponderance of the evidence, as having been removed from a specific burial site of an individual culturally affiliated with a particular Indian tribe,

(C) "sacred objects" which shall mean specific ceremonial objects which are needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their present day adherents, and

(D) "cultural patrimony" which shall mean an object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual Native American, and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual regardless of whether or not the individual is a member of the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and such object shall have been considered inalienable by such Native American group at the time the object was separated from such group.


Compliance with NAGPRA is a University-wide responsibility and requirement. Proactive efforts are required across the University—in every college, school and department—to ensure that all NAGPRA-sensitive human remains and objects are accounted for and handled appropriately. This means that each department within each college and school must communicate with each faculty, researcher, student and staff member to ensure that all Native American artifacts, objects, art pieces, materials and human remains (hereafter “materials”) are reported through their department to the University Repatriation Coordinator. “NAGPRA-sensitive” is defined as human remains identified as Native American and anything of Native American origin. Further evaluation and consultation may be necessary to determine if these materials could fall into the category of unassociated funerary objects, objects of cultural patrimony or sacred objects. The University’s legal responsibility is to share information on all Native American materials with tribes and, through consultation with tribes, understand if they fall under one of these categories.

Department Chairs

Department chairs (or designated faculty or staff) must provide an annual assessment of all Native American materials in their departments (if the department holds any or not) that is on University property. “Native American materials” are defined as anything known or believed to be of Native American origin. The annual assessment should be submitted to Julie Woods, University Repatriation Coordinator (woods@umass.edu, 413-545-2702) before the end of each academic year.  Research, teaching, and handling of all Native American materials within each department should cease until the department chair has reviewed the assessment with the University Repatriation Coordinator and a determination is made regarding any further steps to ensure NAGPRA compliance is completed. All Native American human remains, funerary objects,

objects of cultural patrimony and sacred objects under the control and care of UMass Amherst must be treated in a respectful and dignified manner, with storage, care and treatment defined through consultation with tribes, by the University Repatriation Coordinator. Only through a review of the assessment can the University determine if any Native American materials may be defined as one of these.  Department chairs must also be aware of the University’s policy regarding the acquisition of any potentially NAGPRA-sensitive materials onto University property (see below).

Faculty, Researchers, Staff and Students

Anyone affiliated with UMass Amherst (as faculty, researcher, staff or student) who is (or believes he or she may be) in possession of any Native American materials (human remains or objects of Native American origin) must comply with this policy and proactively inform their department chair or supervisor immediately if he or she may be in possession of any object or artifact of Native American origin. 

Bringing NAGPRA-Sensitive Materials to UMass

The University’s possession or control of any potential NAGPRA materials through new acquisitions creates a legal compliance obligation for the institution. Any employee of UMass Amherst seeking to bring any Native American human remains or objects that could be NAGPRA sensitive (for research or any other purposes) onto University property must receive authorization from the Office of the Chancellor prior to doing so. All proposals must be submitted to the Repatriation Coordinator for a University-level review and demonstrate expressed written consent from all lineal descendants, Indian Tribe(s), Native Hawaiian Organization(s) and/or Indian Group(s) culturally affiliated (or potentially culturally affiliated) with these materials (with cultural affiliation as defined by NAGPRA). Proposals and letters of consent from governing authorities6 or lineal descendants must be submitted at least six months in advance of the requested transfer onto any University property. Each request will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with a written response provided by University officials within six months of each case review.

Handling of NAGPRA-Sensitive Materials by all UMass Employees

All materials potentially subject to NAGPRA (i.e., of Native American origin) should be separated into a secure area accessible only to specific personnel within the department. The discovery of human remains that could even potentially be Native American requires immediate communication with the University Repatriation Coordinator. Human remains should immediately be set aside in acid-free materials, if possible, in a highly secure area until communication with the University Repatriation Coordinator is made and next steps are determined. Other objects that could be NAGPRA-sensitive should be set aside in a secure area until next steps are determined in collaboration with the University Repatriation Coordinator. Department chairs, faculty, researchers, staff or students should not attempt to determine if human remains, objects or artifacts require NAGPRA compliance; rather, they must consult with the University Repatriation Coordinator for an assessment and to determine next steps.

Policy Manager
Associate Chancellor for Compliance
Contact Name
Julie Woods
Contact Title
Repatriation Coordinator
Contact Email
Contact Telephone
Approval Authority
Executive Unit