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Implementing NAGPRA: Connecting Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices to Tribal Partners

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $114,540)

This project proposes a new tribal-researcher partnership between the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and six medical examiner (ME) and coroner (C) offices located in California, Colorado, Ohio, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin (the number of participating ME/C offices may increase). Also, additional potential affiliated federally recognized tribes were and will continue to be notified about the proposed work. By and large, this project is designed to connect tribal partners to ME/C offices to facilitate successful disposition protocols for non-forensically significant Native American remains that are compliant with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) and are tribally relevant and culturally sensitive. ME/C offices receive well over 372,437 skeletal remains each year, with between 55 to 915 cases being non-forensic Native American remains. In order to facilitate tribal-ME/C office partnerships and NAGPRA implementation, the applicant, in partnership with their tribal partner(s), propose to offer their repatriation, osteological, and curatorial expertise to ME/C offices to help complete inventories of remains that fall under the jurisdiction of NAGPRA, and provide repatriation education and training. This effort includes determining possession and control, consulting with tribes, and conducting cultural affiliations research. In addition, the applicant proposes to create a database tailored to tribal needs, envisioned as an interactive map of the U.S., showing the location of every medical examiner and coroner office in the country (roughly 2,000) as well as information regarding the structure of the system in each state, the location of ME/C offices, contact information for these offices, and indications about what offices hold Native American human remains, and the contextual information associated with them. Ideally, the database will give tribes the information and tools necessary to decide how and when they would like to make NAGPRA claims. Ultimately, the study’s deliverables and findings could help ensure the medicolegal system upholds their responsibilities established by federal laws for repatriating non-forensically insignificant Native American remains in their possession.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 12, 2019