State laws require landowners to contact California's Native American Heritage Commission when native remains are found. The commission then assigns a person known as the "most-likely descendant" to consult with the landowner.
But there's sometimes tenuous or no ancestral ties between the "descendant" and the uncovered bodies, scientists and American Indians said. Many remains found in eastern Contra Costa and Alameda counties, for example, are too old to be linked directly with any modern tribes.
It's a long article looking at what happens when remains are found on private property. This is an area I'm none too familiar with. The method described in the article seem fairly arbitrary and a bit confusing to me. Do tribes nominate a person as a "most likely descendent"? Can anyone register themselves as a descendent? It's actually kind of a disturbing article since much of what goes on in these cases is kept secret by the parties involved. There's a lot of stuff in there worth discussing though, but it's mostly terra incognita for me. A lot of these regulations and processes vary state by state a LOT, too.