Aaron H. Midler


In March 2010, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a final rule regarding the disposition of culturally unidentifiable human remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The rule is controversial, as some commentators argue that the Secretary of the Interior lacks the authority under the statute to regulate these remains. This Note analyzes the legitimacy of the final rule in light of federal administrative law precedent as well as the origin and purpose of NAGPRA. It also discusses two well-known cases arising under the statute and the effect that the final rule will have on similar cases arising in the future. Ultimately, this Note concludes that culturally unidentifiable human remains are within the Secretary's power to regulate and that the rule furthers Congress's purpose in passing NAGPRA—to right past wrongs against Native Americans and return Native American remains to Native American tribes.