Cultural managements

Return of Native American cultural objects held by agencies still incomplete, says GAO

Woven grass baskets on display at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

The GAO said federal agencies still hold certain Native American cultural artifacts — ranging from grave goods and other cultural artifacts to human remains — that a 1990 law called for return to tribes and tribal organizations unless the agency decides. can prove that he has the right of possession.

“Such cultural objects have been added to collections by archaeological digs intended to advance scientific knowledge and preserve cultural objects or by discoveries during federal construction projects. The objects also have a long history of being stolen from federal and tribal lands and being added to private or institutional collections,” he said.


The GAO said agencies have made progress in enforcing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act — which applies to museums as well as federal agencies — by “repatriating” more than nine-tenths of human remains that they held, but that more than 100,000 are still in the collections.

He said the remaining issues relate to consultation with tribes and tribal organizations, better protection of articles, and the limited scope of the law and its enforcement.

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