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The Repatriation Database Data from Nov. 29, 2023

University of Alabama Museums

Located in Alabama · Read the institution’s response

The Univ. of Alabama has the 9th largest collection of unrepatriated Native American remains in the U.S. The institution reported still having the remains of at least 2,700 Native Americans that it has not made available for return to tribes.

The institution has made available for return 80% of the more than 13,400 Native American remains that it reported to the federal government.

remains of 10,723 Native Americans made available for return to tribes
remains of at least 2,732 Native Americans not made available for return

Where Native American remains reported by the Univ. of Alabama were taken from

Each county is a peak
Height is the minimum amount of remains taken from county, as reported by institution
Color is reported rate of remains made available for return to tribes
Institution reported no remains taken from these counties
Location of institution
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Note: The Univ. of Alabama reported remains of at least 98 Native Americans with no location information. 0% of these remains were made available for return to tribes.
Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, when an institution establishes a connection between tribes and remains, it must publish a list of the tribes eligible to make a repatriation claim. The remains are then made available for return to the tribe(s). Once a tribal claim is made, physical transfer may occur. Many remains have been physically returned to tribes, but data on this is spotty because the law does not require institutions to report when these transfers occur.

Timeline of Native American remains made available for return to tribes by the Univ. of Alabama

Tribal and institutional capacity, funding, staffing, regulatory changes, audits, Review Committee decisions and litigation may influence timelines. Under NAGPRA, institutions determine whether Native American remains may be returned through cultural affiliation using evidence such as tribal traditional knowledge and biological and archaeological links, or through disposition based on geographic affiliation.

How the Univ. of Alabama compares to other institutions

The amount of Native American remains still held by institutions ranges widely.

The Univ. of Alabama made Native American remains available for return to 15 tribes.

Institutions often make remains available for return to multiple tribes, so the amount of remains listed below may be counted for more than one tribe.
TribeRemains Made Available for Return To
Muscogee (Creek) Nation10,722
Chickasaw Nation10,651
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas10,310
Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Oklahoma10,310
Seminole Tribe of Florida10,310
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma10,310
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma10,246
Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana10,245
Jena Band of Choctaw Indians10,245
Poarch Band of Creek Indians471
Thlopthlocco Tribal Town471
Cherokee Nation406
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians406
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma406
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians65

The Univ. of Alabama reported making 76% of more than 2,300 associated funerary objects available for return to tribes.

The funerary objects were taken along with Native American remains reported by the institution.
1,759 associated funerary objects made available for return to tribes
at least 568 associated funerary objects not made available for return

The Univ. of Alabama’s response:

To honor and preserve historical and cultural heritage, the proper care of artifacts and ancestral remains of Muskogean-speaking peoples has been and will continue to be imperative to UA. Out of respect for the tribes, the culturally sensitive nature of the process, and given our agreement with the tribes to maintain confidentiality in the ongoing consultation process, we can only reiterate that we look forward to continuing our productive work with the tribes on appropriate repatriation efforts in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

— Monica Watts, Associate VP for Communications
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About the Data

This tool presents a dataset maintained by the National Park Service containing all the Native American human remains and associated funerary objects that institutions have reported to the federal government under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The dataset includes information about the state and county where remains and objects were taken from, which institutions hold them and whether they have been made available for return to tribes.

The data is self-reported by institutions. The amount of unrepatriated Native American remains reported by institutions is a minimum estimate of individuals and institutions frequently adjust these numbers when they reinventory groups of remains. Some institutions that are subject to NAGPRA have also entirely failed to report the remains in their possession. As a result, the numbers provided are best taken as estimates. The actual number and geographic scope of what’s held by publicly funded institutions is larger than what is presently documented.

ProPublica supplemented this dataset with information about cultural affiliation and disposition to specific tribes by systematically parsing the text of Notices of Inventory Completion published in the Federal Register. An additional dataset from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Tribal Directory Assessment Tool, was used for the section on remains not made available for return from counties that each tribe has indicated interest in to the federal government.

Institution location and tribal headquarters location information was provided by National NAGPRA. The location of some groups that are not federally recognized was provided through research by ProPublica.

Institutions that are part of a larger entity are grouped. (For example, the Mesa Verde National Park is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.)

Institutions that have not submitted information to the federal government are not listed. The Smithsonian Institution is not listed because its repatriation process falls under the National Museum of the American Indian Act and it is not required to publicly report its holdings with the same detail as institutions subject to NAGPRA.

If you work for an institution and would like to provide comment on your institution’s repatriation efforts, please email [email protected]. If you think the data is incorrect or have a data request, please get in touch. We are aware of some issues with the accuracy of location information and tribes mistakenly being identified for disposition of Native American remains in published notices.

If you want to share something else with ProPublica, we’d like to hear from you.

If you have questions about implementing or complying with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, get in touch with National NAGPRA or the NAGPRA Community of Practice.

We use the word “tribes” to refer to all groups that institutions made Native American remains available to under NAGPRA. This includes tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, Native Alaskan villages, Native Hawaiian organizations and non-federally recognized groups.

Data sources from Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National NAGPRA Program, the Federal Register, Department of Housing and Development, Tribal Directory Assessment Tool