At the core of the repatriation movement is an ethical claim of sovereignty and human dignity. This can be applied broadly - as to whether it is appropriate to ever publicly display the mortal remains of a person who had no say in the matter - or within more specific historical contexts. There are many proponents for the retention of collected remains in the scholarly community, claiming scientific value, guiltless provenance, or a lack of historical continuity from source communities. There are also practical aspects that need to be overcome by any moral argument, such as the demand that research institutions deaccession materials they have invested enormous amounts of resources into studying and preserving.
Engaging repatriation from an ethical perspective involves a multidisciplinary approach that acknowledges the interplay of history, anthropology, archaeology, and natural sciences in forming a contextual understanding of cultural ownership and reconciliation.