What is repatriation and When was the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act passed?

Repatriation refers to one of the issues most important to Native Americans today, the return to tribes of ancient Indian bones and artifacts.

In the past, non-Natives freely dug up Indian burial sites, and many of the remains they uncovered ended up in museums. To Native Americans, museum displays of their ancestors’ skeletons were deeply offensive.

For many decades, they fought to have these bones returned to their descendants, so they could be reburied properly.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed a sweeping law that has compelled many museums to repatriate Indian remains. The law, known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, has also forced the return of masks, rattles, and other objects of religious importance that were stolen from Indian graves.

Having possession of these sacred objects once again has inspired several tribes to revive old ceremonies and tribal customs.