What Do I Do If I've Found Human Remains?
Occasionally people find human remains exposed through erosion, construction (as in digging), or through some other kind of ground disturbance.
If you have found human remains or suspected human remains, Washington State law requires you to notify the County Coroner and local law enforcement. This must be done in the most expeditious manner possible. Any person engaging in ground disturbance activities that resulted in the exposure of human remains must cease all activity which may cause further disturbance to the remains.
What Happens After I've Notified the County Coroner and Local Law Enforcement?
The county coroner will assume jurisdiction over the human skeletal remains and make a determination of whether those remains are forensic or not. If the remains are determined to be forensic the county coroner will retain jurisdiction over the remains. If the county coroner determines the remains are non-forensic, then the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation will take jurisdiction over those remains found on non-Federal and Non-Tribal land.
The Remains have been Determined to be Non-Forensic. What Happens Then?
The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation will take jurisdiction over those remains from non-Federal and Non-Tribal land and report them to any appropriate cemeteries and affected tribes.
Once jurisdiction is assumed, the State Physical Anthropologist will make a determination of whether the remains are Indian or Non-Indian and report that finding to any appropriate cemeteries and to the affected tribes.
What if the Remains are Determined to be Indian?
If the State Physical Anthropologist determines the remains to be Indian, then after notification to the affected tribes of that finding by the DAHP, the affected tribes will have 5 business days to communicate with the DAHP their interest in those remains.
The DAHP will handle all consultation concerning the remains with the affected tribes and other involved parties as to their future preservation, excavation, and disposition.
What if the Remains are Determined to be Non-Indian?
If the State Physical Anthropologist determines the remains to be Non-Indian, then the DAHP will handle all consultation concerning the remains with the involved parties as to their future preservation, excavation, and disposition.
ACHP Policy Statement on Burial Sites, Human Remains, and Funerary Objects
The ACHP has providing the following advice to all federal agencies for the development of unanticipated discovery stipulations in Section 106 agreements (such as Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) and Programmatic Agreements (PAs)) when burial sites, human remains or funerary objects could be encountered during the implementation of an undertaking. This is an updated version of its 2007 policy statement. The policy advances 13 principles, with the main guiding principle that burial sites, human remains, and funerary objects should be treated with dignity and respect in all circumstances including, but not limited to, all times in consultation, during field surveys, when handling must occur, in documenting and/or reporting, if treatment actions occur, and in all other forms of interaction. Please note that DAHP still expects people to follow State human remains law off federal lands.
This template statement can be added to a stipulation tailored to the specific circumstances of an individual undertaking. While such a statement is not required, agencies are strongly encouraged to follow the principles in the policy statement and incorporate the reference when consulting to develop new MOAs and PAs.