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Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
The University of California Is Not Adequately Overseeing Its Return of Native American Remains and Artifacts

Report Number: 2019-047

June 11, 2020

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As required by Health and Safety Code section 8028, my office conducted an audit of the University of California’s (university) compliance with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) and its 2001 California counterpart, CalNAGPRA. These acts establish requirements for the repatriation, or return, of Native American human remains and cultural objects (remains and artifacts) to tribes by government agencies and museums—which include the university’s campuses—that maintain collections of remains and artifacts. This report concludes that the university’s inadequate policies and oversight have resulted in inconsistent practices for returning Native American remains and artifacts among the university campuses we reviewed at Berkeley, Davis, and Los Angeles.

Different approaches employed at the campuses have likely contributed to the fact that Los Angeles has repatriated nearly all of the remains and artifacts from its collection, while Berkeley has returned only about 20 percent. The university’s Office of the President (Office of the President) allowed these inconsistencies to persist by failing to provide adequate guidance to the campuses and oversight of their practices and decision-making. In fact, a 2018 amendment to CalNAGPRA required the university to create a policy for repatriation and establish systemwide and campus committees to review repatriation activity. However, the university failed to adequately incorporate tribal perspectives during the policy’s initial development, and the Office of the President had to extend its timeline to finalize the policy to obtain these perspectives. Nevertheless, the draft policy we reviewed does not create the consistency across the campuses required by CalNAGPRA.

We also found that the campus and systemwide committees do not have the tribal representation that state law requires to ensure balance between university and tribal representatives. According to the campuses and the Office of the President, they have not revised their committees' membership to comply with state law because they are waiting for finalization of the university’s policy. However, until campuses and the Office of the President revise the membership of the committees, the university will fail to comply with CalNAGPRA.

Finally, the intent of CalNAGPRA was to allow more California tribes to pursue repatriation, but a 2015 change in federal regulations has sharply reduced the number of California tribes permitted to make repatriation claims. As a result, in order to fulfill CalNAGPRA’s original intent, the Legislature will have to amend requirements for tribes to qualify to make repatriation claims.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor

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