Changes to the Private Cemeteries Act

In 2023 the Minnesota State Legislature updated the Private Cemeteries Act (MS 307.08). Read on to understand how these changes might affect your project.

The recent changes to the Private Cemeteries Act were developed over many years, in close collaboration with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC). The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe also provided many additions.

A Quick Refresher

The Private Cemeteries Act (MS 307.08) is regulation that protects cemeteries, human remains, and burial sites throughout the state of Minnesota. A key goal of the Private Cemeteries Act is to prevent the disturbance of human remains and burial sites.

The Process

Changes were presented to Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), cultural resource professionals, and state and federal agencies. After this multi-year process, the Department of Administration brought these proposed changes to the legislature.

The Changes

Updated Terminology

Several terms, includingAssess,” and “Disturb,” are re-defined as part of the changes to the Private Cemeteries Act. These updates clarify which agencies hold the primary authority to determine and record different types of burial sites. They also define the harm that the law is meant to prevent.

MIAC More Involved

MIAC will now be involved in the review process earlier on. This includes shifting the authority to assess American Indian burial grounds from the state Archaeologist to MIAC. A good working relationship with MIAC is key to the success of your project.

Referencing Federal Legislation

The Private Cemeteries Act now references the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA is a piece of federal legislation that facilitates the respectful return of cultural and sacred objects, including human remains, to Tribal authorities. By clarifying the relationship between the Private Cemeteries Act and NAGPRA, these changes clarify the role of Tribal authorities in the state-level process.

Easier to Press Charges

The new language clarifies MIAC’s authority and ability to press charges against parties who violate the Private Cemeteries Act. This includes outlining three categories of violation: felony, gross misdemeanor, and misdemeanor. It is important that you know the severity of these charges as well as understand how to proceed with your project in a way that does not violate the law.

Get in Touch

At 106 Group, we remain informed about the ever-changing cultural resource landscape to help our clients navigate these and other regulatory processes. We’ll help keep you up to date so that your project can avoid delays. Reach out to us with questions, today!

Additional Resources

Adam Kaeding

Adam’s experience in archaeology spans North America, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East. He has excellent professional relationships with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), Offices of State Archaeologist (OSA), Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and many Tribal Historic Preservation Officers.