Indian tribes reach agreement on remains
Oct. 17, 2000 | 5:18 p.m.
By STEVEN K. PAULSON Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) -- The remains of 350 unidentified Indians stored in the
basement of the Colorado History Museum for the past century will be
returned to 12 Indian tribes under an unusual agreement.
Instead of waiting for state museum officials to sort out the identities, the
tribes are working together to return the remains to their proper homes,
said Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Ernest House Sr.
``In the Indian world, once the remains are not turned back to the Earth
where it came from, there is a soul that is still out there still wandering out
on the Plains,'' he said Tuesday.
The remains, ranging from skeletons to bone fragments, represent bodies
that were discovered during construction projects, erosion and farming since
Colorado became a state in 1876, said Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers, who helped
broker the agreement.
The 1990 Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act requires
remains to be returned to tribes, but it imposes strict requirements on
those listed as culturally unidentifiable to make sure they are returned to
the proper tribe since tribal customs vary.
Museum officials have returned four sets of skeletal remains over the past
10 years to the Ute and Pawnee tribes.
They have several hundred more boxes of remains from Pueblo Indians
who lived hundreds of years ago in southwest Colorado that will not be
covered by the agreement. Those will remain in a special vault in the
Other tribes signing the agreement included the Northern Utes, the
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Comanche Tribe of
Oklahoma, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the Kiowa of Oklahoma, the Northern
Cheyenne, the Northern Ute, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, the Oglala
Sioux, the Rosebud Sioux, and the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota,
the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara. All of the tribes passed through Colorado
at one time or another.
The tribes hope to have a ceremony next spring to turn over the remains
for burial, House said.
They plan to identify all the remains before burying them, a task that could
be difficult since DNA testing requires a distant relative, and the tribes are
not sure where to start.
Nationwide, some 14,000 human remains have been returned to tribes
under the 1990 law out of 200,000 that had been identified nationally as of
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