Carrying our Ancestors Home: Practitioners' Stories of Process and Return

Primary Contact: Wendy Teeter, Curator of Archaeology, Fowler Museum at UCLA


We, a working group of tribal practitioners, tribal members, museum professionals, and academics, have worked to create this website as an educational tool for people seeking to understand the process and diversity of returning ancestral remains and cultural items as well as the impact of repatriation on Indigenous communities around the world. Many repatriation stories take place over wide swaths of varying landscapes, from institutions to institutions, as anthropologists traded and hid remains through “loans” and use of various labs. This can result in problematic provenance of collection items as they travelled through settler structures. Whether unclear provenance is intentional or stems from misrecognition or a result of shoddy collection habits, the result has been the lack of effective Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) implementation. This site’s visual data, travelling stories, news articles and other publications, and our own original videos about the process and impact of repatriation work enable users to understand the systems of dispossession of body, land, and culturally meaningful materials that have occurred throughout time. Seeing and hearing tribal peoples’ stories humanizes Indigenous people alive and past who have so long been treated as objects in academic and popular narrative.

"As UCLA moves into the next one hundred years of premier research as a land grant institution, we move forward with an intent to work ethically with, not on, the first peoples of California. It is our hope to be partners in this process as we recognize the strength, immense knowledge, vibrancy and importance of Native communities in fulfilling our mission as a public university." — Mishuana Goeman, Special Advisor to the Chancellor of Native American and Indigenous Affairs.


"Community engagement is a strategic priority for UCLA. One of the best examples of this engagement is our commitment to work with indigenous communities to support NAGPRA and return cultural items to their rightful owners. Even if the federal law did not exist, repatriation is the humane and right thing to do." — Roger Wakimoto, Vice Chancellor of Research, UCLA.


Please contact us at coah.repat@gmail.com with any questions or comments regarding this project. We are grateful to the UCLA American Indian Studies Center, the Fowler Museum, Institute of American Cultures, the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott L. Waugh, and the Association on American Indian Affairs for their support of this project.