The Repatriation Department is located at the museum's Cultural Resources Center (CRC) in Suitland, Maryland.
National Museum of the American Indian
Cultural Resources Center
4220 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746-2863
Repatriation Department internship applications are accepted through the NMAI's Internship Program.
To ensure a timely response, please email a copy of any USPS correspondence to Repatriation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Step-by-Step Guide through the Repatriation Process
- The NMAI's A Step-by-Step Guide through the Repatriation Process (pdf), provides guidance for the repatriation process, from gathering the information needed to make a formal request to the successful repatriation of cultural items.
Policies and Reports
National Repatriation Laws
- Repatriation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
- Smithsonian Institution: Much Work Still Needed to Identify and Repatriate Indian Human Remains and Objects
- Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO)
- National Park Service: NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act)
- Association on American Indian Affairs
- University of British Columbia Repatriation Guidelines (pdf)
- University of Denver Museum of Anthropology: NAGPRA Community of Practice
NMAI Repatriation in the Media
- (2021) National Museum of the American Indian Repatriates Two Objects to the Siksika Nation
- (2020) Restoring Balance: A Two-Decade Effort Shepherds Dozens of Tlingit Objects Home
- (2018) A place of reconciliation: Talking with W. Richard West (part 1) (part 2) July 7, 2004 [updated]
- (2015) Behind the Scenes of the Hopi Artifacts Repatriation (Annenberg Foundation)
- (2014) Going Home: 25 Years of Repatriation Under the NMAI Act
- (2013) Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian—Repatriation and Reburial
- (2008) The Road to Repatriation: The National Museum of the American Indian works with Native Tribes to bring sacred artifacts home again
- (2007) Repatriación de restos humanos a Comunidades Indígenas en Chile
- Haudenosaunee Statement on Repatriation
Alaska Native village, group, or corporation
- As defined by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, "Native village" means any tribe, band, clan, group, village, community, or association in Alaska, and which the Secretary determines was, on the 1970 census enumeration date, composed of twenty-five or more Natives;
- "Native group" means any tribe, band, clan, village, community, or village association of Natives in Alaska composed of less than twenty-five Natives, who comprise a majority of the residents of the locality;
- "Group Corporation" means an Alaska Native Group Corporation organized under the laws of the State of Alaska as a business for profit or nonprofit corporation to hold, invest, manage and/or distribute lands, property, funds, and other rights and assets for and on behalf of members of a Native group;
- "Urban Corporation" means an Alaska Native Urban Corporation organized under the laws of the State of Alaska as a business for profit or nonprofit corporation to hold, invest, manage and/or distribute lands, property, funds, and other rights and assets for and on behalf of members of an urban community of Natives.
Associated funerary objects
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 the NMAI.
A relationship of shared group identity that can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present-day Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization and identifiable earlier group.
To remove an object from a collection; at the NMAI this is done only through action of the NMAI Board of Trustees.
Federally Recognized Tribe
American Indian communities with a government-to-government relationship with the United States as established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its Office of Federal Acknowledgment.
Human remains mean the physical remains of a human body, or any part thereof, whether or not naturally shed, freely given, or culturally modified. In some contexts, human hair may be considered human remains. For purposes of this policy, it is assumed that all human remains in the collection are of Native American ancestry unless otherwise known.
Illegally acquired items
Any materials acquired by or transferred to the NMAI illegally or under circumstances that render invalid the museum's claim to them.
Any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alaska Native village or regional corporation (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.
An individual tracing his/her ancestry directly and without interruption by means of the traditional kinship system of the appropriate Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization or by the common law system of descent to a known Native American individual whose remains, funerary objects, or sacred objects are being claimed.
Members or descendants of the aboriginal people who before 1778 occupied and exercised sovereignty in what is now the State of Hawai'i.
Native Hawaiian Organization
Any organization that serves and represents the interests of Native Hawaiians, has a primary and stated purpose of the provision of services to Native Hawaiians, and has expertise in Native Hawaiian affairs.
NMAI Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees has the sole authority within the NMAI to deaccession items. They are also subject to the general policies of the SI Board of Regents (see Section 5(c)(1) of the NMAI Act).
Objects of cultural patrimony
Objects with ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization or culture, rather than property owned by an individual Native American and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual regardless of whether the individual is a member of the Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization. The given object shall have been considered inalienable by the Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization at the time the object was separated from said group.
The process of returning American Indian human remains and certain cultural objects from museum collections to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native clans or villages, and/or Native Hawaiian organizations. This also includes returns to Native communities outside the United States.
Objects needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of Native American religions, including objects needed for the renewal of a religious practice.
Unassociated funerary objects
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 the human remains are not in the possession or control of the NMAI or Smithsonian Institution.