Semester of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Since the passing of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA), state governments have implemented similar policies that allow for Native American tribes without federal recognition to petition for the repatriation of human remains and objects significant to their culture (Seidemann, 2010). Per La. R.S. 8:671-681, which is the Louisiana Unmarked Human Burial Sites Preservation Act of 1992 (UBA), the Division of Archaeology in the Louisiana State Office of Cultural Development is responsible for overseeing the protection and preservation of unmarked burials. These burials are often of pre-Columbian or historic cultural and temporal context, which warrants consultation and collaboration with associated descendant communities regarding their disposition. Research shows that collaboration with Native American communities in archaeological investigations ensures ethical research practice and fosters a more holistic repatriation process and treatment of human remains regardless of ethnicity, culture, or date of interment (Colwell-Chanthaphonh & Ferguson, 2004; Colwell-Chanthaphonh et al., 2010). This thesis documents perspectives on the UBA of Native American communities in Louisiana to evaluate its effectiveness in preserving unmarked burials in pre-Columbian context, and to provide an opportunity for critical feedback on the UBA regulatory process. Qualitative data analysis of semi-structured interviews with tribal representatives was employed to document these perspectives. Supplemental data, including records of permits issued in accordance with the UBA, were analyzed to assess permit usage of the UBA since 2010. Results showed that Native American communities who participated in interviews were overall content with consultation and collaboration regarding unmarked burial sites. However, their outlook for long-term protection and preservation was dim due to the lack of control tribes have over sites situated on private property that is covered under the UBA. Concerning the permits, only 2 out of 18 permits issued since 2010 involve burials in pre-Columbian context, demonstrating that the UBA has been applied more frequently in historical context. This research found that tribes need more legal control over unmarked burials to preserve sacred sites properly.

Committee Chair

Ginesse Listi