Ancient American Indian remains in limbo in S.C.

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The remains of hundreds of ancient people once buried in South Carolina continue to be stored in archives across the state five years after their existence was made public — despite efforts by tribal groups to recover and rebury them.

One set of remains stored by federal officials at the Savannah River Site might be as many as 6,000 years old, said Barbara Morningstar Paul, the state program coordinator for Native American Affairs.

Leaders of tribes with people still living in South Carolina want the human remains returned to tribal groups for reburial. Most American Indians believe the spirits of the dead cannot rest as long as their remains are removed from the earth.

But the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has created a bureaucratic maze for tribal groups seeking to recover and rebury the long-dead ancestors.

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