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Legal Memorandum: Discovery of Human Burial Grounds in MN

Issue: What are a Minnesota landowner’s rights and duties when Indian remains are discovered or suspected on his or her land. 

Area of Law: Native Populations & Tribal Law, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Landowner's rights and duties; Discovery of Indian remains
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Minnesota Statutes § 307.08, subd. 7
Date: 07/01/2008

According to Minnesota Statutes § 307.08, the landowner who discovers or suspects a human burial ground on his or her property necessarily comes under the purview of the statute and the authority of the State.  Minn. Stat. § 307.08, subd. 7.  When remains are found on private land outside of a recorded cemetery, the landowner must contact the State Archaeologist (612-725-2411) to request authentication of the burial grounds as Indian.  Id., subd. 3a.  The State Archaeologist will involve Minnesota’s Indian Affairs Council if the remains discovered or suspected are probable Indian remains.  Id.  “If such burials are Indian, as determined by the state archaeologist, efforts shall be made by the state archaeologist and the Indian Affairs Council to ascertain their tribal identity [and] shall be turned over to contemporary tribal leaders for disposition.”  Id., subd. 7.  “No Indian burial ground may be relocated unless the request to relocate is approved by the Indian Affairs Council.”  Id., subd. 8.  When a human burial area is known or suspected to exist on private land, the landowner or developer must “submit construction and development plans to the state archaeologist for review . . . prior to any disturbance within the burial area [and such plans must] also be submitted to the Indian Affairs Council [if the burials are suspected to be Indian].”  Id., subd. 10.  Moreover, once such burial sites have been identified, the landowner must seek “permission to develop or disturb [even] nonburial areas within authenticated or recorded burial grounds [from] the Indian Affairs Council and other […]

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