Dems seek GAO probe into handling of Native American remains

By Michael Doyle | 04/09/2024 04:18 PM EDT

The request seeks an inquiry into the Interior Department’s oversight of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) speaks during a hearing.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in January. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Two House Democrats asked the government’s oversight experts Tuesday to dig into how federal agencies are meeting the demands of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Citing what they called “a range of deficiencies and challenges raised by tribes,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) urged the Government Accountability Office to undertake a “comprehensive review” of what has been a long-running, oft-criticized and still-unfinished effort.

“Agencies have made some progress implementing NAGPRA, but hundreds of thousands of Native American human remains and other cultural items have yet to be repatriated,” the two Democrats wrote.


Grijalva, the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Norton drew the GAO’s attention in particular to the Interior Department’s civil enforcement process as well as the department’s processes for awarding grants under the program. They also took note of recent reports that “continued resistance by some museums unwilling to comply” with the law has been a barrier to repatriation.