Human remains will be turned over to state for repatriation to B.C. First Nation

Human remains recovered from the home of a Deer Harbor man nearly two years ago will be turned over to the state Department of Archeology, which is expected to repatriate them to the Canadian First Nation on whose territory the remains were found some 30 years ago.

Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, who is also county coroner, is in possession of the remains. He said Monday he expected to turn the remains over to the state Department of Archeology, which will make arrangements to repatriate the remains.

The remains were discovered in the home of Peter Paul Whittier by state Fish and Wildlife officers investigating a report that Whittier had killed an eagle and possessed eagle feathers and other parts. Officers saw two human skulls on display in Whittier’s home; they consulted Gaylord, who asked that the remains be confiscated.

Gaylord asked King County archeologists to analyze the remains and determine their age; they were determined to be “historical,” Gaylord said.

Whittier said in court documents that he found the remains on a Vancouver Island beach during a boating excursion there in the early 1970s. Whittier and his attorney, now-Superior Court Judge John Linde, asked District Court Judge Stewart Andrew to return the remains to Whittier, saying the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act didn’t apply because the remains were found in Canada. Andrew declined and Whittier later pulled his request for the remains.

Whittier would have been required to declare the human remains to Customs agents when he returned to the U.S., Friday Harbor Customs official Dennis Hazelton said in an earlier interview. At that point, Customs agents would have taken possession of them and contacted authorities.

U.S. law — 19 USC 1497 — provides a civil penalty for not declaring articles being imported. 19 USC 1592 provides civil penalties for falsely declaring articles being imported.

Customs officers would want to know, “Whose skull is it, where did you get it, why do you have it?” Hazelton said. “This was a human being. If we’d run across it, we’d have done the same thing (as Fish and Wildlife).”

“All articles imported must be declared,” Hazelton said ion that earlier interview. “If I ask you if you are bringing anything into the U.S. and you don’t tell me about that bottle of Scotch or those cigars or that human skull, you’ve violated the law.”

In addition, Dr. Julie Stein, director of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, said it is illegal to transport human remains across an international border.

Officers obtained a search warrant and searched Whittier’s home on June 21, 2006, acting on a tip from a former housekeeper, according to court documents.

In the home, officers found two human skulls — one with jawbone — in a glass case; a great horned owl mounted on the mantle above the living room fireplace; and eagle feathers on a kitchen shelf and at a dump site on the property. They also found feathers and down in several plastic garbage bags in a Jeep on the property.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., analyzed the feathers and determined the feathers found on the shelf and at the dump site to be from an eagle. The feathers in the plastic bags were determined to be “from unspecified raptor(s),” according to court documents.

Whittier reportedly obtained the stuffed owl at a swap meet in the Southwest several years ago.

Possessing eagle and horned owl feathers or other parts is illegal. Bald eagles are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which was signed by the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia. Great horned owls are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Fish and Wildlife office in Seattle turned the feathers over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Eagle Repository, which issues feathers and parts by permit to American Indians for ceremonial or religious purposes. The great horned owl could be used for educational or scientific purposes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Nicholas Throckmorton said at the time.

Gaylord sought to prosecute Whittier for “unlawful taking of protected wildlife,” based on allegations by the housekeeper that Whittier and an employee had shot and killed four eagles that attacked or threatened chickens on his 160-acre estate. Whittier denied those allegations, but paid $813 in fines.

Sgt. Russ Mullins of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said his department seized Whittier's Jeep under civil forfeiture laws, because of evidence found in the vehicle that showed it had been used to transport or store dead eagles.

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