Bill Would Make Returning American Indian Remains Easier

Bill Would Make Returning American Indian Remains Easier

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Returning the remains of American Indians found on private property to their tribes would be easier under a bill being proposed by a state senator.

When human remains are discovered on public lands, they're analyzed to determine cultural affiliation, and Utah tribes have the opportunity to submit claims for them, said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. If no claims are made, the remains are interred at the state burial vault, he said.

But there's no similar process for remains found on private property. They're kept at repositories at places such as the University of Utah or the state Division of History, Cuch said.

"Behind all this is an attempt to honor the dead," Cuch said. "The goal is to get those remains out of repositories and return them to the tribes or place them in the burial vault."

Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi, who is sponsoring the bill, said it would help landowners by streamlining the process of reporting remains and remove landowners' burden of paying for the process.

"What we want to do is kind of hustle this up a little bit," he said, "give the state archaeologist's office at least one employee, get the remains identified and out of there."

Peterson said he'll move forward with the legislation if 0landowners and tribes are protected. While details aren't finalized, Peterson thinks the bill would add a vehicle and an expert in the archaeologist's office to do field checks. He estimates the bill could cost the state about $75,000 each year.

As Utah undergoes more development, more remains are exposed on private land, said Kevin Jones, the state archaeologist.

Jones said the bill will also take the cost burden off of private landowners, who are legally required to report human remains, and will also honor the deceased.

"We are running into human remains at a higher rate than ever," Jones said. "And we need to make sure that they're covered properly under the law, so we can treat them with proper respect. ... We'll do whatever needs to be done with the excavation and removal, so that the project can continue."

------ Information from: Deseret Morning News,

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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