Human Remains Process (11-WA-b)
11-WA-b .1 – Cease all Activity at the Site
When a developer discovers human remains on the project site through ground disturbing activities they must immediately cease any activity which may cause further disturbance of the area. RCW 68.50.645(2)(a).
11-WA-b.2 – Protect Area from Further Disturbance
The developer must make a reasonable effort to protect the area from further disturbance. RCW 68.50.645(2)(b).
11-WA-b.3 – Report Discovery of Remains
The developer is required to report the presence of human remains to the county coroner. RCW 68.50.645(2)(c).
11-WA-b.4 – Determine if Remains are Forensic or Non-Forensic
“Forensic Remains” are those that come under the jurisdiction of the coroner pursuant to RCW 68.50.010. The coroner will have jurisdiction over the remains where the circumstances of the death indicate death was caused by an unnatural or unlawful means. RCW 68.50.010. Any remains that do not qualify as forensic remains are considered non-forensic remains.
11-WA-b.5 – Are the Remains Forensic?
DAHP has jurisdiction over remains determined to be non-forensic. The county coroner maintains jurisdiction over remains determined to be forensic.
11-WA-b.6 to 11-WA-b.7 – Proceed with Investigation
Following a determination that the remains are non-Indian, the county coroner and local law enforcement will deal with the remains under their ordinary procedures. The developer may continue their project following excavation and disposal of the remains. RCW 68.50.645(3)(c).
11-WA-b.8 – Notify of Non-Forensic Determination
When the coroner has determined that the human remains are non-forensic, they are required to notify the DAHP within two business days. The coroner will have jurisdiction over the remains until the source of the remains can be determined. RCW 68.50.645(3)(a).
11-WA-b.9 – Notify Local Cemeteries and Appropriate Tribal Government
DAHP is required to notify the appropriate local cemeteries, and all affected Indian tribes via certified mail to the head of the appropriate tribal government. DAHP must contact the appropriate tribal cultural resources staff within two business days.
DAHP has the discretion to determine which local cemeteries should be notified. RCW 68.50.645(3)(b).
11-WA-b.10 – Make Initial Determination of Whether Remains are Indian or Non-Indian
The state physical anthropologist from DAHP must make an initial determination of whether the skeletal remains are Indian or non-Indian to the extent possible within two business days of notification. RCW 68.50.645(3)(c).
11-WA-b.11 – Are the Remains Indian?
Affected Indian tribes must be notified if the remains are found to be Indian. If the remains are non-Indian, then excavation and disposition of the remains is handled by DAHP.
11-WA-b.12 to 11-WA-b.13 – Conduct Excavation and Disposition of Remains
If it is determined that the remains are non-Indian, then DAHP will conduct excavation and disposition of the remains. The developer may continue the project once the remains are successfully removed.
11-WA-b.14 – Notify all Affected Indian Tribes
If the remains are determined to be Indian, then DAHP must notify the affected tribe of the presence of the remains. “Affected tribes” are:
- Federally recognized tribes with usual and accustomed areas in the jurisdiction where the remains were found;
- Federally recognized tribes that submit to DAHP maps that reflect the tribe’s geographical area of cultural affiliation; and
- Other tribes with historical and cultural affiliation in the jurisdiction where the remains were found. RCW 68.50.645(4)(a).
11-WA-b.15 – Notify DAHP as to Interest in the Remains
Affected Indian tribes have five business days to respond via telephone or writing to DAHP as to their interest in the remains. RCW 68.50.645(3)(d).
11-WA-b.16 to 11-WA-b.18– Has the Tribe Indicated Interest in the Remains?
If the affected tribe expresses interest in dealing with the remains, then they will be allowed to handle the remains. The developer may continue the project once the remains have been dealt excavated.
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Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation
Human Remains Process Contact