I am working on the Rules and Regulations chapter for our repatriation manual, and it’s been a little bit difficult picking out the “rules”. The interpretation of the rules is what can be tricky and often times museums and tribes differ over each group’s respective ideas when it comes to the rules. Consultation and the 90-day rule are the first that come to mind, along with compliance. I think if all museums read the regulations and law carefully, many would find themselves out of compliance in one way or another, usually starting with consultation. What is even more frustrating is when you find a museum is out of compliance yet there are very little mechanisms that can correct the museum. I think some museums know this and that is why they simply ignore the regulations, knowing there will be little or no repercussions from their actions. I would like to see stiffer penalties and fines levied against museums who are out of compliance.
In my department, we have many”unofficial” rules we use, such as; initiating and sustaining contact with museums, pursuing human remains first, burying remains and grave items and to always have at least one claim out, are a few. Some of the rules are cultural protocol, like the reburials, but then again, in the big picture most of NAGPRA work for us is cultural. My department is Cultural preservation and I think NAGPRA fits perfectly into that.