New Rule Regarding Culturally Unidentifiable Native American Human Remains

The Department of the Interior has finalized a rule regarding procedures for the disposition of culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains in the possession or control of museums or federal agencies.  The rule implements the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

According to the notice published in the Federal Register:

“In brief, this rule pertains to those human remains, in collections, determined by museums and Federal agencies to be Native American, but for whom no relationship of shared group identity can be reasonably traced, historically or prehistorically, between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group.  These individuals are listed on inventories as culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains.  The rule requires consultation on the culturally unidentifiable human remains by the museum or Federal agency with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations whose tribal lands or aboriginal occupancy areas are in the area where the remains were removed.  If cultural affiliation still cannot be determined and repatriation achieved, then the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may request disposition of the remains.  The museum or Federal agency would then publish a notice and transfer control to the tribe, without first being required to appear before the Review Committee to seek a recommendation for disposition approval from the Secretary of the Interior.  Disposition requests, which do not meet the parameters of the rule, would still require approval from the Secretary, who may request a recommendation from the Review Committee.”

The rule will go into effect on May 14 2010.  Until that time, comments being accepted.  For more information, please visit