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Most nations consider the protection of cultural material, such as historical monuments, archaeological sites, and antiquities, to be of utmost consequence. Yet, despite the near-universal importance of safeguarding cultural heritage, domestic protections for cultural material in the United States tend to be difficult to interpret. These ambiguities and gaps allow for continued exploitation and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. This Note focuses on the legal structures in the United States that safeguard indigenous cultural material. After briefly discussing the rationale behind safeguarding objects of heritage, this Note explores the dominant federal statutes that protect cultural material: the National Historic Preservation Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. This Note then explores the various ways in which the efficacy of these protections is limited. Finally, this Note recommends amending federal statutes to eliminate gaps in protection, empower the Department of the Interior to prosecute violations, and increase training among those most likely to encounter illicitly trafficked cultural material—namely customs officials and law enforcement.


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7 Sep 2022
674 kB



  • Subject
    • Criminal Law

    • Human Rights Law

    • Indigenous Law

    • Law Enforcement and Corrections

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 63

  • Issue
    • 4

  • Pagination
    • 1555

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022