Well-Intentioned but Ineffective: A Legislative History of the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
Repatriation is the policy of returning Native American human remains and other items from museums and agencies within the United States. It became federal law in 1990 with the passage of the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA required federally-funded agencies to repatriate to Native American tribes. In 2001, the California legislature created a state-level version of NAGPRA to assist non-federally recognized California native peoples repatriate their items from state-funded institutions. However, the bill broadened the scope of repatriations and created challenges to comply with existing NAGPRA requirements for California museums. By investigating letters of support and opposition, stages of the bill’s life in the legislature, and other records, I argue that the creators of California NAGPRA were sincere in their intent to help California tribes, but fundamentally lacking in their understanding of the issues at hand. This analysis is necessary because there is a significant gap in California and national literature for a legislative history of California NAGPRA, and a want of general knowledge about Native American repatriation.