Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Tribes in California have a long and complicated history fighting for the repatriation of their ancestors and cultural items from institutions, more specifically universities and Anthropology departments. With the passing of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) (1990), Cal NAGPRA (2001), and the United Nation Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (2007), many Tribes continue to ask the question, why are basic human rights not afforded to them? These policies, created out of Indigenous human rights initiatives, are a façade that hinders full repatriation efforts. The university is an appendage of the settler state and reproduces epistemological violence by continuing to mark California Indians as white possessions (Morton-Robinson 2015). Tribes continue to advocate for their ancestors’ return home from these universities, repositories, museums, despite the inadequacies of repatriation laws. Repatriation laws, while sometimes useful in returning Native ancestors to back tribes, are limited in scope and fail to satisfy basic human rights for Indigenous people.

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