Today I have to present to the county and a group of contractors about what happens when human remains are found. NAGPRA does not apply, since the lands are privately owned (even though this is within our reservation, that is whole blog onto itself). If the lands were federal or tribal, NAGRPA would be applied. So, what do you do when remains are found on “private” land? Each state has different laws addressing this. Michigan’s laws are not as strong as others, there is a provision for remains that are found on state land that scientist have first shot at them. We want to work with the state to change this.
Back to private land. ultimately, the land owner has the final say on what happens to the remains. But, there are some state laws that contractors and builders follow. Michigan state law states if remains are found on private land, the land owner must be notified immediately. It is a felony to move or disturb burials without consent of the property owner. It’s illegal to take any remains or grave goods and it is illegal to take pictures of any burials or remove headstones or other markers. Plus, the local sheriff needs to be notified, just in case the remains are a missing person or murder victim. I am hoping property owners will contact the tribe if remains are found in the future. It’s a situation I am not happy with, but at least if we are notified, we can rebury somewhere else, instead of the remains being part of a foundation for a house or worse yet, taken from the site.