ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — New York is one four states without statutory protection for Native American burial sites, but new legislation could change that. Similar legislation passed in both houses last year, but was vetoed by the Governor. Hochul said the bill did not fairly balance the rights of property owners and families of native descendants.
“We’re trying to say, hold on, let’s just try to sort out whose bones these are and whether they need to be repatriated… if a developer or property owner discovers the remains on their land, that they have to go through a certain process and that’s what this law was all about,” said Native activist, John Kane.
The legislation would require developers and builders to halt their projects upon discovering human remains or funeral objects and report It to the local coroner. If the coroner determines those remains are more than 50 years-old, the state archaeologist would have to be notified to determine its origins. If those remains do in fact belong to Native people, the bill would require the descendants or culturally affiliated groups be notified and given possession. “We just want to properly procure the remains and handle them in a respectful way,” said Kane.
In a statement the President of Seneca Nations, Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said: The Act, finally, provides a clear process, standards and appropriate timelines that will help ensure that unmarked burial sites, remains and funerary objects discovered in New York are rightfully protected from disruption, destruction and desecration and can be restored to the care of our Nations.”There would also be criminal penalties for violating those terms or failure to report discovery. So far the bill has yet to be voted on.