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Repatriation of Human Remains: Foreign Cases

Resources for facilitating the return of ancestral remains and examining the issue from a critical historical perspective

Repatriation Abroad

Despite NAGPRA's shortcomings, few other countries have passed legislation that specifically pertains to the repatriation of human remains or funerary artifacts. Particularly notable are the efforts of Australia's government to facilitate the return of cultural objects to their ancestral communities. Unlike NAGPRA, which focuses almost entirely on domestic repatriation from federally-funded organizations, Australia has placed special emphasis on assisting Aboriginal communities with transnational claims.

This page provides a brief survey, far from comprehensive, on the legislative mechanisms and institutional support structures that can facilitate the repatriation of human remains. There are also case studies of both concluded and ongoing bilateral cooperation between source countries and host countries. 

Returning Our Ancestors (2020)

This documentary produced by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council details the ongoing activism of Indigenous communities in Australia to redress the ownership and display of ancestral remains by working with the government to have materials repatriated to their communities of origin. More information about the documentary and the VAHC can be found here.

Search Keywords

  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Tribal Entities
  • Aboriginal
  • First Nations
  • Pharaonism
  • Source Community
  • Treaty Violation
  • Decolonization

Resources for the Americas

The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs maintains a special subdivision for aiding Indigenous entities pursuing the repatriation of tangible cultural property in foreign holding. 

Resources for Eurasia

Resources for Africa

Resources for Oceania