Remains repatriated to tribe under Utah law

Salt Lake City, Utah (AP) 7-09

The remains of a child whose grave dated to the late 19th Century have been repatriated to the Kanosh band of the Southern Paiute.

It is the first successful repatriation under a 1992 Utah law – a state version of the 1991 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – designed to ensure that American Indian remains are handled with dignity.

The remains were found by a man hunting rabbits in Millard County in 1999. The man discovered several small blue glass beads that led him to a baby’s grave. He gathered some bones and skull fragments and handed them over to police.

The remains of the child, later determined to be about 1 year old at death, were returned to the Kanosh band in late May.

“It went unchallenged, so it lays the groundwork for future repatriations,” said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

Under the federal NAGPRA law, remains have been repatriated many times, including recently when the Southern Paiute’s Kaibab band accepted 19th Century remains excavated at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in April 2008.

Cuch said tribes often are not interested in repatriation. In those cases, the remains are placed in a vault in Emigration Canyon. About 60 individual remains, some as many as 7,000 years old, are there now.

In the case of the May repatriation, a report by Assistant State Archaeologist Ronald Rood said that while the child’s age made it impossible to determine ancestry, the context strongly suggested the baby was American Indian.

The Southern Paiute submitted a claim on behalf of the Kanosh band because it is headquartered 16 miles to the south of the grave site, said Dorena Martineau, the tribe’s cultural resources director.

The state honored the claim and Rood delivered the remains and artifacts – which included a shallow tin bowl and tin cup, some buttons and 52 glass beads – to the band on May 24.

“They were really happy to get the baby back,” said Martineau, who serves on the state’s Native American Remains Committee. “It’s sad to think these remains are shoved in a box and put in the basement.”

Tribal spiritual leaders led an all-night ceremony in late May while interring the child’s remains in the Kanosh cemetery, Martineau said.