The Federal Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first law enacted to protect tribal and public lands from looting for grave remains by collectors and amateur archaeologists.

The National Museum of the American Indian Act passed in 1989 recognized and established the National Museum of the American Indian. By law, the act required a full documentation of funerary remains in collections established by George Heye and also started the process of repatriation to federally recognized Native communities within the US.

National Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a federal law created in 1990 that requires federally funded institutions to inventory all Native human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony within their collections. Communities associated with these objects may then choose to have them repatriated back into their respective communities.

Noble Savage: In the mid-nineteenth century many scholars and the general population believed that Native Americans were either noble savages elevated above their earthly station or degraded wild men who were mentally, physically, and spiritually lower in development and civilization than Europeans.

Salvage Paradigm: As the nineteenth century progressed, Native peoples were forced onto reservations and their populations declined due to war and diseases such as smallpox and cholera. Many anthropologists such as Franz Boas, artists, and others felt the need to document and collect every aspect of Native life they could. Gustav Heye is most commonly associated with this practice.

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