Bill to protect American Indian burial sites passes Senate (updated)

Anniston Star – Local News, Business, Sports, Events, Blogs, Videos, Podcasts – Anniston, Ala.

State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, says a pair of bills he sponsored to offer greater protection to American Indian sites in Alabama have passed the state Senate.

If one of the bills becomes law, it would close a loophole in state law that currently allows for the removal of ancient Indian burial sites under certain circumstances. Under current Alabama law, anybody who desecrates graves and mutilates corpses is guilty of a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the law sets a different standard for American Indian burial sites.

The current law states that any person who maliciously desecrates an American Indian place of burial or funerary objects on property not owned by the person shall be guilty of a Class C felony. It’s the “not owned” part of the law that has given property owners the final say on what happens to many Indian burial sites.

Wendell said another bill that passed the Senate today would require people removing grave sites to get permission from a local governing body. If it’s in Oxford, for example, permission would have to come from the Oxford City Council, he said.

Mitchell said neither bill has a House sponsor and did not know if anyone in the local legislative delegation was interested in taking up the cause.

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