Discovery of Human Remains That May Be Native American

The following steps should be taken when human remains are discovered:

1. Call the County Coroner.  (Health and Safety Code section 7050.5).  The County Coroner, and not the NAHC, site archaeologists, monitors, or anyone else, determines that the remains are Native American for purposes of the NAHC’s jurisdiction.  If they are, the County Coroner will contact the NAHC.  The NAHC does not have jurisdiction to designate Most Likely Descendants until the County Coroner determines that the remains discovered are Native American.  The landowner shall ensure that the immediate vicinity of the remains, according to generally accepted cultural or archaeological standards or practices, is not damaged or disturbed further by development activity until the landowner has discussed and conferred with the Most Likely Descendants regarding their recommendations.  The coroner shall make his or her determination within two working days from the time when the person responsible for the excavation, or his or her authorized representative, notifies the coroner of the discovery or recognition of human remains.  If the coroner determines the remains are not subject to his or her authority and if the coroner recognizes the human remains to be those of a Native American or has reason to believe that there are those of a Native American, he or she shall contact the NAHC, by telephone, within 24 hours.

2. The NAHC Environmental and Cultural Staff will designate which California Native American Tribe on its Most Likely Descendants list is the Most Likely Descendant of the Native American whose remains were discovered and contact that Tribe.  (Public Resources Code sections 5097.94(a), 5097.98)

3. The Tribe designated as MLD will have 48 hours from the point at which they are granted access by the landowner of the property to where the remains were discovered to inspect the site where the remains were discovered and make recommendations or preferences for treatment know to the landowner.  The landowner shall discuss and confer with the MLDs all reasonable options regarding the MLDs preferences for treatment, which may include:

a. The nondestructive removal and analysis of human remains and items associated with the Native American human remains.
b. Preservation of the Native American human remains in place.
c. Relinquishment of the Native American human remains to the MLDS for treatment.
d. Other culturally appropriate treatment. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98). 

4. The parties may also agree to extend discussions, taking into account the possibility that additional or multiple Native American human remains are located in the project area, providing a basis for additional treatment. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98)

5. If the NAHC is unable to identify MLDs, the identified MLDs fail to make a recommendation, or the landowner or his or her authorized representative rejects the recommendations of the MLDs and the mediation provided for under Public Resources Code section 5097.98, subdivision (k), if invoked, fails to provide measures acceptable to the landowner, the landowner or his or her authorized representative shall reinter the human remains and items associated with Native American human remains with appropriate dignity on the property in a location not subject to further and future subsurface disturbance.  To protect these sites, the landowner shall do one or more of the following: 

(1) Record the site with the commission or the appropriate Information Center.

(2) Utilize an open-space or conservation zoning designation or easement.

(3) Record a document with the county in which the property is located. The document shall be titled “Notice of Reinterment of Native American Remains” and shall include a legal description of the property, the name of the owner of the property, and the owner’s acknowledged signature, in addition to any other information required by this section. The document shall be indexed as a notice under the name of the owner. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98)

For more detailed information on the roles and responsibilities of MLDs and landowners under Public Resources Code section 5097.98, please read Public Resources Code section 5097.98 here.