Biological samples taken from Native American Ancestors are human remains under NAGPRA

Alyssa C. Bader, Aimee E. Carbaugh, Jenny L. Davis, Krystiana Krupa, Ripan S Malhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) provides a specific framework for the disposition of Native American Ancestral remains within its purview. However, samples such as a bone fragment, tooth, or other biological tissue taken from the remains of these Ancestors have been treated by institutions and researchers as independent of the individual from whom they were removed and used in destructive research such as paleogenomic and other archaeometric analyses without consultation, consent, and collaboration from Native American communities; are not cared for in keeping with the current best practices for Indigenous Ancestors; and are not likely to be repatriated to their communities. Here, we demonstrate that any biological samples removed from Ancestors who are covered under NAGPRA must also be handled according to the stipulations defined for “human remains” within the legislation. As such, we are not proposing a change to existing legislation, but rather best practices, specific to the context of the United States and NAGPRA, relating to the use of and care for biological samples taken from Native American Ancestors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-534
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Biological Anthropology
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 13 2023
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Archaeometry
  • Research ethics
  • Paleogenomics
  • Biological samples

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Anatomy


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