In 2001, the State Legislature passed AB-978, the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 2001 (Steinberg, 2001), requiring all state agencies and museums that receive state funding and that have possession or control over collections of human remains or cultural items to provide a process for the identification and repatriation of these items to the appropriate tribes. The bill also created a Repatriation Oversight Commission with oversight authority. The intent of the legislation was to cover gaps in the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Udall, 1990) specific to the State of California.
After the Repatriation Oversight Commission remained unfunded for over a decade, the Native American Heritage Commission (Commission) was granted oversight authority. In 2018, the State Legislature added additional Commission responsibilities under AB-2836 (Gloria, 2018), including providing technical assistance to the University of California (UC) in adopting policies and procedures adopted to expedite repatriation of remaining items in its possession.
On September 25, 2020, Governor Newsom signed AB-275 (Ramos, 2020) into law, which amended CalNAGPRA and became effective on January 1, 2021. In AB-275, the State Legislature added additional Commission responsibilities, including maintaining a list of California Indian tribes and their state aboriginal territories, adopting mediation procedures, and publishing notices of completion of preliminary inventories and summaries on the Commission website.
CalNAGPRA List. Pursuant to Section 8013(a) of the Health and Safety Code, the Commission maintains a list of all California Indian tribes and their respective state aboriginal territories for the purpose of the repatriation of Native American human remains and cultural items. Notice that the Commission maintains such a list was sent out to all covered agencies and museums in December 2020. Please contact the Commission at CalNAGPRA@nahc.ca.gov with any questions or if you are an agency or museum seeking to implement your duties under CalNAGPRA.
UC Committees. On June 24, 2021, the Commission approved nominees to the University of California (UC) Systemwide and Campus Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Implementation and Oversight Committees pursuant to Section 8026 of the California Health and Safety Code. The Commission is continuing to accept nominees for the UC Systemwide and Campus Committees for future consideration. If you are interested in serving or nominating a candidate, please review the criteria and submission instructions at the UC Committee Nomination Page.
AB 2836 (Gloria, 2018) requires the University of California to:
- Establish and support a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Implementation and Oversight Committee systemwide and at each campus;
- Adopt and implement certain policies and procedures to better implement the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act;
- Ensure that the campus committees implement the updated policies and procedures;
- Adopt procedures to support appeals and dispute resolution in cases where a tribe disagrees with a campus determination regarding repatriation or disposition of cultural items directly to the systemwide committee.
The bill also requires the California State Auditor to conduct an audit commencing in the year 2019 and again in 2021 regarding the University of California’s compliance with the federal and California acts and to report its findings to the Legislature and to all other appropriate entities.
AB-275: Native American cultural preservation
AB 275 (Ramos, 2020) requires the University of California to:
- Designate one or more liaisons for the purpose of engaging in consultation with California Native American tribes on the contact list maintained by the Commission;
- Appoint members to the UC NAGPRA Committees upon nomination by the Commission;
- Implement systemwide policies by January 1, 2021, and implement and campus policies within one year after the adoption of the systemwide policies;
- Adopt and implement certain updated policies and procedures to better implement the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act;
- Adopt procedures to support appeals and dispute resolution when a tribe disagrees with a campus determination regarding repatriation or disposition of human remains or cultural items directly to the UC Office of the President or a different oversight committee;
- Complete preliminary inventories and summaries by January 1, 2022.
NAGPRA Audit Report. In June 2020, the California State Auditor issued its initial audit on the UC’s compliance with state and federal laws protecting Native American human remains and cultural objects. More information, including the report in full, is available here.
UC Interim Policy. On July 24, 2020, the UC issued an Interim Policy on Native American Cultural Affiliation and Repatriation in order to allow tribes that were unable to review the draft Policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic additional time to comment through November 15, 2020. On January 1, 2020, AB 275 became effective and made significant changes to CalNAGPRA, requiring the UC to update the draft Policy to incorporate these changes. The UC allocated additional time for public comment from March 1-May 31, 2021, and set a new anticipated finalization date of July 31, 2021.
The Commission hosted an overview webinar on the Interim Policy on November 5, 2020, and submitted the following comment letters to the UC as the policy was developed:
Commission Legal staff oversees the Commission’s CalNAGPRA program.