"The remains of a dozen Native American warriors of the Yaqui tribe have been laid to rest following a two-year campaign to rescue them from a New York museum."
The museum said it was the first time it had "turned over cultural patrimony to a foreign government that immediately returned it to the indigenous people".
"They would not be at peace with their souls and conscience until they got their people back to their land," said Jose Antonio Pompa of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.and
"On Monday afternoon, on the slope of a mountain near the Yaqui village of Vicam, the 12 sets of remains were "baptized" to give them names that have been lost to history.
They were given a warriors' honor guard, and amid drumming, chants and traditional "deer" and "coyote" dances, each was laid to rest in the ground they had been striving to return to when they were slaughtered.
The bones were forgotten in museum storage until Perez and anthropologist Andrew Darling, who works for the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, started to study them in 2007 and realized their gruesome story.
The Pascua Yaqui tribe of Arizona took up the fight to have the bones returned.
"The approach we use is that we are one people ... the border is just an artificial concept," said Robert Valencia, vice chairman of the Pascua Yaquis.
U.S. Indian remains are protected under the North American Indian Graves Protection Act. But because the law doesn't cover Mexican remains held in the U.S., the Arizona tribe contacted the Mexican Yaquis and they in turn contacted the Mexican government, which also decided to get involved.
The remains were honored by Yaqui on both sides of the border, spurring the tribes' hopes for recognition of their status as a single people who have long lived in both countries — in Sonora and in southern Arizona near Tucson.
The remains were packed into ceremonial wooden boxes and taken first to Tucson, where they were given a hero's welcome by Pascua Yaquis, including an honor guard of Indian veterans of the U.S. Army.
"That is why the warriors' role is important, because when we make territorial claims, it is because Yaqui blood was spilled there," said Mexican Yaqui elder Ernesto Arguelles, 59. "This is the first opportunity we have had to stop and mourn."I am pleased that your people have returned back to you - well done on succeeding against insurmountable odds.
Hat tip The Buffalo Post