Monday, January 28, 2008

Bill aims to protect tribal grave sites
Nearly three years ago, state construction crews who were working on a road project in Arlington accidentally dug into graves that held the remains of four American Indians, ancestors of Stillaguamish tribal members.

The discovery was one in a series that, over time, has revealed the vast numbers of Indian graves spread throughout the region.

Now, a bill in the Legislature could result in a database of every known site of buried human remains throughout the state. The database would be exempt from public disclosure laws in order to protect the sites from looters and vandals. The bill would also protect property owners and contractors who have followed state guidelines from criminal and civil charges if they accidentally uncover skeletal remains.

Sounds like a reasonable plan and one that could save a lot of hassles. One problem I see is how the locations would be verified. Would tribes have to provide photographic or other evidence demonstrating the existence of remains? Otherwise, how would anyone know that there are really remains at the reported location? Or perhaps this is just something of a notice for developers that they could find remains and need to plan for possible mitigation. One can certainly see developers avoiding locations where there is a high probability of human remains being found.