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Indigenous Art & Architecture

A guide meant to augment research into Indigenous artists and architects across the world, with a specific focus on the United States and Canada.

Davidson's piece "Three Variations of the Killer Whale Myth." Photograph of 3 totem poles with a person standing at the bottom.

Robert Davidson. Three Variations of the Killer Whale Myth. 1985. 

NAGPRA and Repatriation

In acknowledging the history of Indigenous art in museums, it is important to note the need for repatriation, and how the creation of NAGPRA has allowed for that to occur in the United States. The Native American Grave Protections and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which was established in 1990, requires institutions that receive federal funding to return cultural items to the respective lineal descendants, or to the associated tribes, Alaska Native villages, or Native Hawaiian organizations. 

Here at IU, we have a separate office that ensures that the University is complying with NAGPRA and consulting with the appropriate tribes. 

While the work of NAGPRA is important, it is not the only example of the repatriation of Indigenous cultural items. The national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, has set an example for a more active approach to repatriation. For more information about repatriation and NAGPRA, check out some of the books included on this page. 


"Objects in museums are living entities... In the presence of objects from the past, we are privileged to stand as witnesses to living entities that remain intimately and inextricably tied to their descendant communities." 

Amy Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums

This section aims to examine the harm and violence that museums have historically inflicted on Indigenous communities, and continue to do, while also acknowledging current representations of Indigenous art that set a positive example moving forward. The "About Indigenous Art in Museums" sub-page takes a more general approach, with the inclusion of resources about past and present representations of Indigenous art and artifacts, as well as information about NAGPRA and the act of repatriation. The "Notable Museums with Indigenous Art" sub-page includes a list of museums that are either entirely focused on Indigenous art, or have notable collections that include past and contemporary art made by Indigenous artists. 

Resources from the Catalog