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Legal Memorandum: Landowner's Responsibilities in MN

Issue: What law governs the responsibilities of a landowner who wishes to sell his or her property for development but discovers or suspects a human burial ground on the property in Minnesota?

Area of Law: Native Populations & Tribal Law, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Sale of property; Responsibilities of a landowner; Human burial ground
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Minnesota Statutes § 307.08, subd. 7,subd. 8, subd. 10, subd. 2(a), subd. 2; Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. § 3001; Minn. Stat. § 307.082
Date: 08/01/2008

The use of such a property is governed by Minnesota Statutes § 307.08.  (The federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. § 3001, et seq., pertains to federal and tribal, not private, lands.)

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 request authentication of the burial grounds as Indian by the State Archaeologist.*FN1  Id., subd. 3a.  The State Archaeologist will involve Minnesota’s Indian Affairs Council (IAC), 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 […]

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