Our Process

Courtesy of the Chickasaw Nation. All rights reserved.

Journey Home

Follow our progress toward repatriation, and learn more about NAGPRA compliance.

What is NAGPRA?

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a Federal law enacted in 1990, provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return Native American human remains and cultural items – funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony – to lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.


NAGPRA is changing!

View the most recent draft regulations here

Ancestors in Our Care

MDAH Ancestors by County Map

Click the interactive map to identify Mississippi counties with Ancestors and objects in our care.

Our Responsibility

In 2018, MDAH began actively participating in NAGPRA by documenting the number of Native Ancestors in our care.

Active Repatriation 

The transfer of individuals is underway at MDAH. Interact with the map to view active and pending repatriations. Our ethical and legal obligations assist us in transitioning these individuals through active consultation with our Tribal partners. 

Care and Trust

If you are in possession of Native Ancestors and/or funerary objects, they may be transferred to MDAH under a Care and Trust Agreement with Tribal Nations. MDAH staff can help you return the individuals to the appropriate Tribe through the use of an approved Transfer Agreement

Please email us and select the "Care and Trust" subject header.

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Repatriate Mississippi Initiative

In March 2021, MDAH launched the Repatriate Mississippi Initiative, designed to connect MDAH with other institutions across the country who may have Native American remains that were removed from Mississippi. This initiative facilitates  shared expertise and assists institutions who may lack the resources necessary to complete NAGPRA. Click on the map to see the states participating. See the table below detailing these institutions and their participation status.  

Email us to learn more about how your institution can participate and select “Repatriate Mississippi Initiative” in the subject header.

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Repatriate Mississippi Initiative

Repatriate Mississippi Initiative

Institutions with Ancestors removed
State Institution Status
Alabama University of  South Alabama, Center for Archaeological Studies Participant
Arkansas Arkansas Archaeological Survey Participant
Connecticut Yale University, Peabody Museum of Natural History Participant
Louisiana LA Cultural Heritage Museum Not located
  Louisiana State University, Museum of Natural Science Participant
  University of Louisiana at Monroe Resolved
  Louisiana State Attorney General Office Resolved
Massachusetts Harvard University, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Participant
  Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Participant
Mississippi Mississippi Dept. of Transportation Participant
  University of Mississippi, Center for Archaeological Research Participant
  Mississippi State University, Cobb Institute of Archaeology Discussion
  United States Dept. of Interior, FWS, Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge Participant
  US Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile Participant
New York American Museum of Natural History Discussion
North Carolina Appalachian State University, Appalachian Cultural Museum Resolved
Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Discussion
Tennessee University of Memphis, C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa Resolved
Utah Brigham Young University, Museum of Peoples and Cultures Resolved


Research within Reach

MDAH provides access to our archaeology collections upon request. Tribal partners are invited to consult and consider each proposal.

Research Request Procedure

To make a request, please email us and select "Research Request" in the subject header. All researchers requesting use of the archaeology collections are encouraged to complete Research Consultation Form

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Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I find human remains?

If you believe you have found a burial or human bone you should first contact your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible.  A deputy or police officer will be sent to your location to determine if the area is an active crime scene. If the burial or exposed remains are determined to be historic, the county coroner should be contacted for further guidance.  If the remains are determined to be prehistoric, please contact MDAH Archaeology Collections at archaeologycollections@mdah.ms.gov for further guidance.  

I might have found a Native American artifact. How can I find out more information?

Contact the archaeology collections team at archaeologycollections@mdah.ms.gov with details and photos of your find. They are happy to answer questions and provide additional resources!   

What do I do if I want to donate my collection? 

Contact the archaeology collections team at archaeologycollections@mdah.ms.gov with details about the collection and photos if available. They will submit the potential donation to the Archaeology Collections Committee for approval. If approved, you will be asked to fill out a Deed of Gift Form as well as a Transfer Form upon physical transfer. .


Assessment of Remains

MDAH determines the minimum number of individuals in our care through bioarchaeological examination. To read more about the assessment procedure, click below.

Assessment Procedure

NAGPRA Step-by-Step

See our Archaeology Collections Policy for details about our acquisitions process. Click below for additional information on our step-by-step approach to repatriation.

NAGPRA Procedure