U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Implementing NAGPRA Connecting Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices to Tribal Partners

Dr. Veronica Pasfield, Ojibwa member of the Bays Mills Tribal Community; Reylynne Williams, Cultural Resource Specialist, Gila River Indian Community; Megan Kleeschulte, M.A., University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Dr. Ellen Lofaro, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Dr. Bruce Anderson, Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, Arizona

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). In order to facilitate tribal-ME/C office partnerships and NAGPRA implementation, the investigators, in partnership with the tribal partners, 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, initiate consultation, and provide repatriation education and training.

The data collected through these collaborative efforts will be used to construct a national database that details the medicolegal system in each state, identifies NAGPRA contact information for each office, what offices hold Native American human remains, and the contextual information associated with them. The database will also include NAGPRA “tool-kits”, resource documents designed for medico-legal practitioners that will provide easy, go-to guides for NAGPRA compliance that are state specific. The tool-kits will be tailored to the input from the tribes located in each state, the state’s ME/C structure, as well as each state’s laws for the identification and disposition of non-forensically significant remains. The database as well as the tool-kits will first be constructed for and piloted in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, and Tennessee. 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.

Date Published: December 9, 2021