Monday, October 21, 2002

State historical society won't disturb remains

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Historical Society has told its archaeologists to keep their hands off prehistoric human remains they may find during excavations.

The society has issued a memo saying the remains are to be left in place, except in special circumstances.

"They are to note it, mark it, but not do any further excavations until we feel more comfortable with our relations to native peoples," said Rachel Tooker, the society's chief operating officer.

Previously, skeletal material routinely was returned to the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus for study and storage. The society's collection as of last year included about 6,500 individual pieces or sets of human remains and 107,000 artifacts from graves.

"I kind of hated to make this the issue," Ms. Tooker said. "Our bottom line is to improve communications with tribal groups."

American Indian groups said they welcome the move, but won't be satisfied until remains and grave artifacts now in collections are returned to them for reburial.

"We think this is a very good thing, and we're happy Rachel put it in place," said Barbara Mann of Toledo, a spokeswoman for the Native American Alliance of Ohio. "But it's high time. Ohio is behind the times, and Rachel is trying to pull (the society) into the 21st century."

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