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Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
The University of California Is Not Adequately Overseeing Its Return of Native American Remains and Artifacts

Report Number: 2019-047


Scope and Methodology

Section 8028 of the Health and Safety Code requires the California State Auditor (State Auditor) to commence audits of the university’s compliance with NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA in 2019 and 2021, and to report the results of the audit to the Legislature. This is the first of two reports that the State Auditor plans to release.

To obtain an understanding of the requirements of NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA, we reviewed relevant state and federal laws and regulations. Using factors such as the size of their NAGPRA collections and their locations across the State, we selected three campuses and the Office of the President to review, and we performed audit work related to their adherence to the requirements in NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA. We visited the following three campuses:

To determine whether these campuses followed the requirements in NAGPRA, we reviewed 28 of the approximately 55 claims that the three campuses received from tribes from January 2010 through August 2019. Specifically, we reviewed 19 completed repatriations and six completed disposition claims, including denied claims, to ensure that they followed federal regulations that govern the repatriation and disposition processes. Additionally, we reviewed three pending claims to ensure that we identified the reasons their statuses were pending as opposed to denied. To verify information about campuses' NAGPRA collections, including remains and artifacts that campuses reported as repatriated or missing, we reviewed the accuracy and completeness of their data concerning the collections, which we discuss in more detail in the assessment of data reliability below.

To identify whether the Office of the President complied with state law related to adopting and implementing systemwide policy, we reviewed both its process for drafting the policy as well as the draft text of the policy. Specifically, we reviewed documentation and meeting summaries, and we interviewed officials to identify the timeline and process the Office of the President is using. We compared the text of the first draft systemwide policy to the specific requirements in state law and assessed whether the policy addressed any of the concerns we identified in our review of the three campuses’ approaches to implementing NAGPRA. We also reviewed the most recent draft of the systemwide policy as of April 2020 to determine whether the policy addressed any of our concerns, and we updated our conclusions appropriately.

To evaluate whether the campuses and the Office of the President are complying with CalNAGPRA requirements related to the membership of their committees, we interviewed their staff and reviewed documentation related to committee members. For the systemwide and campus committees, we reviewed the academic background and biographies of university members and had the campuses and the Office of the President confirm the tribal associations of tribal members.

To ensure that the NAHC was fulfilling its statutory responsibilities, we identified state laws related to its responsibilities, interviewed staff, and reviewed supporting documentation where available. Although CalNAGPRA establishes several roles for the NAHC, including mediating disputes and publishing a list of California tribes that have not received federal recognition, our review focused on initial steps that the NAHC must take to implement CalNAGPRA. We also interviewed NAHC staff and reviewed its processes for soliciting nominations for tribal members to serve on campus and systemwide committees.

Assessment of Data Reliability

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer-processed information that we use to support findings, conclusions, and recommendations. In performing this audit, we relied on data provided by the campuses we reviewed to understand the campuses’ NAGPRA collections. To evaluate these data, we performed electronic testing of the data and tested the accuracy and completeness of the data. In order to be respectful of tribal concerns about disturbance of their ancestors, we did not view remains or artifacts as part of these activities. Instead, we verified storage and location information and compared data to physical museum records. We found that Davis’s and Los Angeles’s data related to their NAGPRA collections were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit.

However, during our review, we identified errors in the accuracy of Berkeley’s NAGPRA collection data. Specifically, of the 24 sets of remains and artifacts that we reviewed, Berkeley’s data had six errors in the number of remains and artifacts in those sets. As a result, we determined that the NAGPRA collections data that Berkeley provided to us are not sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit. Nevertheless, because these data represent the only source for this information, we present a breakdown in the Audit Results of the size of campus NAGPRA collections; the number of missing remains and artifacts, where available; and the percentage of remains and artifacts that Berkeley has repatriated to tribes. To provide additional assurance on the percentage of items that Berkeley had repatriated, we compared the data to repatriations we tested at the campus and ensured that the data were accurate. Although the problems we identified with the data may affect the precision of some of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

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