The Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History have pioneered in Native American scholarship since the mid-nineteenth century. Since its establishment the National Museum has formed one of the country’s most extensive collections of Native American items representing every geographical area and almost every tribal group in the hemisphere.
OF THE SMITHSONIAN’S more than one dozen museums and numerous research facilities and program offices, only two museums are engaged in ongoing repatriation related activities: the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The NMNH and the NMAI are responsible for the care and management of two major collections of materials related to the cultures of Native Peoples from throughout the Western Hemisphere and Hawaii. Consequently, they share a responsibility for the Smithsonian Institution’s accountability on the issue of repatriation. This section of the repatriation handbook will describe their respective policies, the legislative history on which each policy is based, and the repatriation process for each museum.