Navajo Nation sues over Arizona remains

Dec. 20, 2011 at 8:38 PM

PHOENIX, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Navajo Nation has filed a lawsuit to force the National Park Service to return human remains exhumed from Arizona's Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Tom Clark, the monument's superintendent, said efforts are being made to give back 303 items taken from the Navajo site. Federal law requires the Park Service to determine the "cultural affinity" of the remains and other objects before returning them, Capitol Media Services reported Tuesday.

Clark said there is a conflict between the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and property rights laws. He said the National Park Service has to comply with the repatriation act and complete the process of figuring out who is entitled to the remains.

The tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court last week saying it appears the Park Service intends to give some of the cultural items to other tribes. Tribal attorneys said all of the items were taken before the repatriation act was approved in 1990 and argue the objects remain the property of the Navajo Nation.

Clark said archaeological remains are no longer being removed from the monument.

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