The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was initially passed in 1990. The law required museums and other institutions that receive federal funding to inventory their collections for Ancestral remains and associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. These inventories, completed and disseminated to tribal groups through consultation, provide information to those descendent communities interested in their expeditious return. Additional guidance and clarification has been provided since the law was passed, including information on the process for cases where cultural affiliation cannot be ascertained.

Michigan State University created a joint NAGPRA effort in 2019, guided by the Provost's Office and the Office of Research Regulatory Support to establish a process for increased collaboration and consultation with Tribal officials. This effort has focused on creating a separate collections and consultation space, on renewing conversations, and on starting constructive dialogue among scholars and Tribal representatives. We recognize that NAGPRA, while having its foundation as a legal matter, is also a personal, cultural, and spiritual endeavor and as such, have moved forward with creating a unique space dedicated to this process. In August of 2022, the University adopted it's first official NAGPRA Policy (pdf).

Currently, our Native American collections include Ancestral remains and funerary objects from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan, with the majority of collections originating from Michigan. While they do not fall under NAGPRA, we also have collections from the Bahamas that we will be working to return as well.