BALTIMORE (Aug. 5, 2007) - Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Eberhart Hall and the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, an agency of the Maryland Department of Human Resources, announced on Friday an agreement to work cooperatively in establishing a process that will lead to the development of a plan for the repatriation of ancient American Indian skeletal remains to an appropriate burial site. Under federal law, any plan that is developed must be submitted to the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Review Committee and be approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior before it can be carried out.
The Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland's historic preservation office and a division of the Department of Planning, has been the custodian of the skeletal remains of at least 139 American Indians that pre-date the first contact between Indians and European explorers. Since the early 1990s, federal and state laws have allowed agencies and museums to repatriate Indian remains in their possession to government-recognized Indian tribes, but the lack of such recognized tribes in Maryland and the antiquity of the remains held by the Trust have to date precluded any such repatriations. Maryland law directs that remains which cannot be linked to a modern recognized Indian tribe be placed in an "appropriate place of repose" designated by the Secretary of the Department of Planning.
To accomplish this goal, the Department of Planning recently shared a draft proposed process with the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs and invited it to work jointly with the Department in developing and implementing a process leading to the production of a plan. The Commission has accepted the invitation and looks forward to working cooperatively with the Department of Planning to ensure the respectful and appropriate disposition of all American Indian remains in the Department's possession. The Department of Planning and Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs envision a process that includes broad consultation with interested parties including Maryland Indians, federal and other state-recognized Indian tribes with connections to Maryland, the archaeological and scientific community, and other interested parties.
The Department of Planning and the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs plan to hold a public joint informational meeting and invite public comment on the proposed process for plan development at the Commission's regularly scheduled September 2007 meeting. The Commission and Department will accept written comments on the proposed process for a period of 21 days after the meeting. Copies of the proposed process and information on the joint informational meeting may be obtained from the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs website (www.gcia.sailorsite.net) or by calling 410-767-7857 or 1-800-714-8813, or from the Maryland Historical Trust website (www.marylandhistoricaltrust.net) or by calling 410-514-7685.
Following the 21-day public comment period, the Maryland Department of Planning and the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs will review all comments and initiate an agreed upon process for developing a plan.
Source: Maryland Department of Planning