Researchers, tribes clash over Native bones

By SUDHIN THANAWALA | January 15, 2012 | 11:05 AM EST

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — A recently finalized federal rule about Native American human remains held by universities, museums and federal agencies is creating friction between researchers and tribes.

The rule addresses what should happen to remains that cannot be positively traced to the ancestors of modern-day tribes. Such culturally unidentifiable remains have long sat in storehouses.

But museums and agencies must now notify tribes whose current or ancestral lands harbored the remains and give them a chance to claim them.

Tribes have hailed the rule, saying it will help close a long and painful chapter that saw native peoples' bones stolen by grave robbers and disrespected by researchers.

But scientists say more remains will become off limits to research, imperiling the study of the diets, health, migrations and other habits of ancient peoples.