Black Mesa mines: Native Americans demand return of their ancestors’ bones

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Black Mesa mines: Native Americans demand return of their ancestors’ bones

Navajo and Hopi Nations are fighting for the protection of Arizona burial grounds as one of the world’s largest coal companies seeks extension of its mining permit

The Peabody mine on Black Mesa with reclaimed areas in the background, looking north-west.
 The Peabody mine on Black Mesa. The company is seeking a lifetime mining permit for the lands it leases from Native American tribes. Photograph: Sam A Minkler

In 1967 the Peabody coal company came to the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northern Arizona and Utah to excavate a strip mine – but the land it leased from the tribes was on an ancient tribal burial ground. So, as required by law, it hired archeologists and for the next 17 years a dig known as the Black Mesa archeological project – the largest in North American history – unearthed more than one million artefacts, including the remains of 200 Native Americans.

Now the bones and artefacts are at the centre of a debate between tribes people who say ancestral remains and archeological ruins have been desecrated, and a coal company and government officials who are planning a new dig. Read More

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