Navajo Nation v. USDOI, No. 13-15710 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Navajo Nation filed suit seeking immediate return of human remains and associated funerary objects taken from its reservation. Between 1931 and 1990, the National Park Service removed 303 sets of human remains and associated funerary objects from Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a sacred site on the Navajo Reservation. In the mid-1990s, the Park Service decided to inventory the remains and objects pursuant to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013, with the ultimate goal of repatriating the remains and objects to culturally-affiliated tribes. The district court dismissed the suit as barred by sovereign immunity. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction to consider the Navajo Nation’s claims because the Park Service’s decision to inventory the remains and objects was a final agency action within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 704. By deciding to undertake NAGPRA’s inventory process, the Park Service conclusively decided that it, and not the Navajo Nation, has the present right to “possession and control” of the remains and objects. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.