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The Law and American Indian Grave Protection

Rhode Island Laws

Summaries follow of burial/archaeological laws yielded through a keyword search for "archaeology" and "burial" on 2001 March 30 at the State Historic Preservation Legislation Database found at the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) web site, that database then updated through 1999. These summaries are reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law which may be found at www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html

http://www.ibsgwatch.org is not responsible for any inaccuracies or timeliness of information.


Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 23-18.2-1 through 23-18.2-7
Section Title: Preservation and care of burial places and memorials for the dead

Summary:

Prohibits the alienation or appropriation of a burial place by a municipality for another use without the approval of the General Assembly. Prohibits the removal or destruction of a fence, tomb, monument or gravestone within any cemetery or burial place except in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. Permits the removal of a gravestone or other memorial for the dead only for the purpose of repair or replacement, reproduction or preservation and display in an accredited museum. Requires for such removal the consent of the owner of the burial lot or a lineal descendant of the deceased, or if such person is unknown, the burial ground authority. Requires also the order of the superior court for the county in which the burial lot is located, upon written application of a consenting owner, lineal descendant or burial ground authority, and upon the court's finding that removal is necessary or desirable for the protection or preservation of the gravestone or memorial. Declares it to be unlawful for a person to sell, offer for sale or attempt to sell or transfer or dispose of any monument, gravestone or other structure placed or designed as a memorial for the dead, or any portion or fragment thereof, knowing that it has been unlawfully removed from a cemetery or burial ground. Declares such violations to be punishable, upon conviction, by imprisonment for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than $5,000. Declares that a person who commits such violations or who topples or damages any marker, gravestone, crypt or columbarium shall be required, for each violation, to perform four hours of public community restitution at the cemetery, mortuary or other facility where the desecration or other violation occurred. Prohibits the community restitution from being suspended. Requires a person convicted under this section, in addition to any other fine or penalty, to pay treble damages to the burial authority, religious organization, cemetery corporation or persons having charge of the burial grounds where the damage occurred. Requires a convicted offender who is a minor and unable to pay treble damages to perform a specified work program at the site where the damage occurred for such period of time as will in the opinion of the court equal treble the damages sustained.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Violation / Penalty / Enforcement

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 23- 18-11
Section Title: Cemeteries: regulation of excavation around cemeteries

Summary:

Prohibits a city or town from permitting construction, excavation or other ground disturbing activity within twenty-five feet of a recorded historic cemetery, unless there is no reason to believe that additional graves exist outside the documented boundaries of the recorded cemetery and the proposed construction or excavation activity will not damage or destructively alter the historic cemetery through erosion, flooding, filling or encroachment. Requires that, whenever an unmarked cemetery or human skeletal material is located inadvertently during construction, excavation or other ground disturbing activity, including archeological investigation, the building official of the city or town be immediately notified. Directs the building official, in turn, to notify the state medical examiner and, if the grave, cemetery or skeletal material appears to be historic, the state historic preservation officer. Requires the property owner, prior to the continuation of any further construction, excavation or other ground disturbing activity, to undertake an archeological investigation to determine the boundaries of the unmarked cemetery and to inform the building official of such boundaries. Directs the building official to notify the recorder of deeds of the city or town if the cemetery meets the criteria for a historic cemetery.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Disposition of Human Remains

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 23- 18-11.1
Section Title: Cemeteries: permit required to alter or remove historic cemetery; powers of city or town council; appeal

Summary:

Requires an agency or a property owner to apply to the city or town council for a permit before authorizing or commencing alteration or removal of a historic cemetery located within the city or town. Directs a city or town council to prescribe by ordinance standards to regulate the alteration or removal of a historic cemetery within its municipal limits. Requires such standards to include the following: an applicant for a permit must demonstrate that no prudent or feasible alternative to the proposed alteration or removal is possible; the city or town shall provide for notification and participation in the permitting process of parties that may be interested in the proposed alteration or removal by virtue of their status as a governmental health or historic preservation authority, or as a private or nonprofit historical, genealogical or civic organization, or, in the case of American Indian cemeteries and burial grounds, the appropriate tribal authority; and the city or town shall provide for due consideration of the rights of descendants in any application to alter substantially or remove a historic cemetery. Authorizes the city or town to require an applicant to undertake an archeological investigation, at the applicant's expense, to determine the actual boundaries of the cemetery prior to final consideration by the city or town of the application to alter or remove. Authorizes the city or town, after due consideration, to grant the application to alter or remove a historic cemetery in whole or in part, under the supervision of an archeologist and with such restrictions and stipulations as it deems necessary, or to deny the application in its entirety. Enables a person aggrieved by a decision of a city or town regarding such a permit to appeal to the superior court and from the superior court to the supreme court. Directs that nothing under this section shall be deemed to contravene the authority of municipal bodies under 45-5-12 to hold, manage, repair or maintain any neglected burial grounds.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Disposition of Human Remains

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 23- 18-13
Section Title: Cemeteries: notification of state archeologist

Summary:

Requires the state archeologist to be notified whenever an ancient burial place contains or is suspected to contain the remains of one or more American Indians.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Disposition of Human Remains

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45- 5 (1)(i-k)
Section Title: Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission: state property

Summary:

Directs the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, with the assistance of the departments and agencies of the state government, to inventory and catalog all buildings, sites, objects and artifacts of historical, architectural or archeological interest that are in the custody or jurisdiction of the state and to furnish copies of the catalog to each department and agency concerned. Directs the commission to advise state departments and agencies of the appropriateness, suitability, proper procedures and other safeguards which should be observed in preserving, displaying or using items contained in the catalog. Requires the commission, when notified of any proposal to alter physically, change the location or method of storage, or change the use or public accessibility to any item in the catalog, to advise the responsible agency in writing within sixty days concerning the proposed action. Requires that such advisories rendered by the commission shall be followed unless there are compelling reasons not to do so, in which cases a statement of the reasons, together with a copy of the commission's advisory, shall be submitted to the governor for final determination. Directs the commission to survey the use or occupancy of all state-owned buildings or sites that are of historic, architectural or archeological interest and to make recommendations to the director of Administration concerning the appropriate use and availability of public access of each building and site.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Curation / Ownership of Artifacts

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45.1- 1 through 42- 45.1- 4
Section Title: Antiquities Act of Rhode Island: purpose; definitions; property and investigative rights of state

Summary:

Declares that the public has an interest in the identification, interpretation, preservation and protection of the state's archeological resources including underwater historic properties situated under the navigable waters of the state, and to the knowledge gained from a scientific study of these resources. Declares that the identification, interpretation, preservation and protection of the state's archeological resources shall be undertaken in a coordinated and organized manner, with due consideration given to other significant natural and man-made environmental assets, for the general welfare of the public. Reserves for the state the exclusive right and privilege of field investigation on sites owned or controlled by the state, its agencies, departments or institutions to protect and preserve archeological and scientific information and objects. Directs that such information and objects shall remain the property of the state and shall be used for scientific or educational purposes. Reserves for the state title to and exclusive control of all bottoms of navigable waters within the state's jurisdiction in the territorial seas and to any underwater historic property thereon, including any shipwreck, vessel, cargo, tackle or underwater archeological specimen, including any found at refuse sites or submerged sites of former habitation, that has remained for more than ten years on the bottoms of any navigable waters and territorial seas of the state.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority
    • Underwater Archeological Activity

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45.1- 7
Section Title: Antiquities Act of Rhode Island: cooperation by state and municipal agencies

Summary:

Requires state agencies, departments, institutions and commissions and all municipalities to cooperate fully with the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission and to notify the commission if the agency finds or is made aware by an appropriate historical or archeological authority that its operation in connection with any state, state assisted, state licensed or contracted project, activity or program adversely affects or may adversely affect scientific, historical or archeological data. Requires that state agencies inform contractors regarding the provisions of this chapter. Directs the Historical Preservation Commission, upon notification, to conduct a field investigation, after reasonable notice to the state agency. Requires the commission to initiate actions within thirty days of notification by a state agency, or within such time as agreed upon by the parties involved. Authorizes the responsible agency to spend agency funds to assist the commission with field investigations.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45.1- 5 through 42- 45.1- 6
Section Title: Antiquities Act of Rhode Island: responsibility for administration of programs; survey of sites

Summary:

Directs the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission to administer the state archeology and underwater archeology programs and to prescribe necessary rules and regulations, which shall include: issuance of permits for the conduct of field investigations, requirements for reporting results of such investigations, provisions for the preservation and display of specimens and fair compensation to the permittee for underwater historic properties recovered. Requires a person conducting field investigations to be responsible for obtaining permission of any federal or state agencies having jurisdiction prior to conducting any recovery operation. Retains title for the state for all objects and specimens recovered from such field investigations. Directs the commission to conduct a survey of archeological and anthropological sites and specimens located within the state and to make the survey available to all agencies of the state government and its political subdivisions that may conduct activities which may affect such sites and specimens.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Curation / Ownership of Artifacts
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority
    • Survey / Inventory of Sites
    • Underwater Archeological Activity

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45.1- 8 through 42- 45.1-11
Section Title: Antiquities Act of Rhode Island: transfer of property by state; reservations of land from sale; state archeological landmarks; private lands

Summary:

Authorizes the state, its agencies, departments and institutions, when transferring real property under its jurisdiction that contains significant archeological or other anthropological resources, to condition the transfer upon such covenants, restrictions or other contractual arrangements to limit the future use of the property to protect those resources, as recommended by the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission. Authorizes the state properties committee, upon written recommendation by the commission, to reserve from sale any state lands, including lands forfeited to the state for nonpayment of taxes, on which sites or artifacts are located or may be found. Requires that such reserved lands be confined to the actual location of the site or artifacts and that the lands be released for sale when the sites or artifacts have been explored, excavated or otherwise examined to the extent desired by the commission. Enables the commission to designate an archeological site or underwater historic property as a "state archeological landmark," provided that no site on private land shall be designated without the written consent of the owner. Requires the commission, upon designation of an archeological site, to give written notice of the designation to owners or occupants of each designated state archeological landmark. Prohibits a person from conducting field investigation activities, or exploration or recovery activities in the case of an underwater site, without first securing permission from the commission and the express written consent of the landowner. Allows the commission to remove designation from any site that no longer has significance. Declares that the intention of the General Assembly is that field investigations on privately owned land should be conducted in accordance with both the provisions and spirit of this chapter. Encourages persons having knowledge of the location of archeological sites to inform the commission.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority

Code Book: Rhode Island General Laws
Citation: 42- 45.1-12
Section Title: Antiquities Act of Rhode Island: enforcement of chapter; assistance by other agencies

Summary:

Authorizes the state attorney general to bring an action in the name of the state in any court of competent jurisdiction for restraining orders and injunctive relief to restrain and enjoin violations or threatened violations of this chapter, and for the return of items taken in violation thereof. Directs the chief administrative officers of all state agencies to cooperate and assist the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission and the attorney general in carrying out the intent of this chapter. Directs all law enforcement agencies to assist in enforcing this chapter.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Violation / Penalty / Enforcement



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