Under California law, if you’re digging on your property and you find prehistoric remains, you must contact the state’s Native American Heritage Commission.
The commission then assigns a person known as the “most-likely descendant” to consult with the landowner. But there’s sometimes tenuous or no ancestral ties between the “descendant” and the uncovered bodies, scientists and American Indians said. … Praetzellis and other researchers said it is more important for American Indians to be involved in the moving of ancient remains than to force them to prove a genetic link after being left out entirely for decades.
“They just have to say, ‘Yeah, I feel culturally connected to those remains,’” said Jeff Fentress, a San Francisco State anthropologist. “It is really up to that person to determine how to handle that burial.”
Landowners often pay consulting fees to persons on the designated “descendant” lists, and some persons of American Indian descent say they would like to be on the lists but were left off because of politics. Some Indian activists are also upset that the state law does not give the “descendant” the right to block development. (Matt Krupnick, “Ancient remains causing problems”, Contra Costa Times, Oct. 18). Earlier: Jul. 16, 2005, etc.