American University Washington College of Law Unveils State Burial Laws Project

Research involved students, faculty, and staff to create comprehensive online resource on state laws


WASHINGTON, DC, November 18, 2010 – American University Washington College of Law is proud to announce the public unveiling of the State Burial Laws Project, a website of state laws affecting burial sites, including human remains and funerary objects, that was developed by 27 students.  The public release of the project is being accompanied by student presentations of the website at the Department of the Interior at the NAGPRA 20th Anniversary celebration.

The State Burial Laws Project began at the National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Program Office at the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. NAGPRA is a federal law that deals with situations when human remains and funerary objects are unearthed on federal or tribal lands. However, when human remains and funerary objects are found on private or state-owned land, state laws govern. Such laws vary widely from state-to-state, and thus there is no clear protocol for how to deal with such discoveries.

The State Burial Laws Project seeks to assist the public by providing a centralized source for researching various state laws dealing with burials. Although there may also be regulations and municipal or county laws relevant to these issues, this project currently focuses on locating and summarizing relevant state legislation.

In 2008, the NAGPRA Program Office partnered with American University Washington College of Law to begin the State Burial Laws Project, where law student interns created questions to guide their state-by-state inquiries, conducted statutory research within 50 states and the District of Columbia, and summarized their findings in short, relevant annotations.

Students have compiled research addressing myriad questions ranging from how respective states deal with issues of Native American human remains and burial objects, to how states punish individuals convicted of theft, destruction of property, and hate crimes, to how states recognize minority groups. Students summarized relevant state statutes so that answers to these vital questions would be accessible to those employed in the legal field as well as individuals without a legal background. Visitors to our website may search for answers to specific questions within an identified state, or may view generally how states deal with these issues differently. We have partnered with Westlaw to ensure that, as much as possible, our data remains current as these statutes are updated by respective state legislatures.

You can view the State Burial Laws Project online at

# # #

American University Washington College of Law

In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 100 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school’s nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its 1700 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit