Sacred Indigenous artefacts have been returned to traditional owners after almost a century in US museums.

After months of back and forth, 42 Aranda and Bardi Jawi objects have arrived in Sydney from the Illinois State Museum.

The items mark the first of many to be returned ahead of next year's 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook's first voyage to Australia.

The objects were most likely taken from central Australia around 1920, before their first public display in Illinois in the 1930s.

Western Aranda ceremonial leader Braydon Kanjira says he cannot describe the Aranda artefacts for cultural reasons, but said their return to Alice Springs is a special moment.

“To us, it means a lot, to the Aranda tribe … it was emotional, really, really emotional,” he told reporters.

“I can't find the words to describe it, how we felt about our artefacts being here, back home in central Australia.”

He said having the objects returned to country would allow future generations to enjoy them.

“We already know about the songs of the artefacts, they're going to be restored for our future generations, we will be talking to our grandsons about the artefacts, but in a public way.”

Christopher Simpson, from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), said the objects would now be revered in a proper way.

“They will be sung to, they will be admired,” he said.

“Imagine the stories these objects could tell.”

The repatriation project is ongoing, with more than 40 culturally significant objects currently on their way from the Manchester Museum.

“Body ornaments made from feathers, teeth and wood, hair bundles and belts would be among those objects,” Mr Simpson said.

Those items will be returned to the Aranda, Gangalidda Garawa, Nyamal and Yawuru people.

“It's the start of getting artefacts back from around the world, it's the beginning,” Mr Simpson said.

AIATSIS says it hopes the project could become an ongoing effort for the Federal Government.