Between 1970 and 1974 human remains were removed from the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo site during archeological investigations conducted by the School of American Research (now School for Advanced Research). After the excavation, the human remains, along with all other excavated materials, were housed in the School’s archaeological repository.
It is possible that the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo site, which is within the larger Rio Grande Pueblo tradition, may be linked to any or all of the contemporary Pueblo and Tewa-Hopi groups, although no specific pueblo claimed ancestral association. Therefore, in September 2005, in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the School completed an inventory of the human remains and associated funerary objects in the School’s possession. The School then made a detailed assessment of the human remains in consultation with representatives of the 18 pueblos and 2 tribes in Arizona and New Mexico. It was determined that the human remains represented the physical remains of 283 individuals of Native American ancestry. It was also determined that the funerary objects were reasonably believed to have been placed with or near the individual human remains at the time of death or later as part of the death rite or ceremony. Also, it was determined that there is a relationship of shared group identity that can reasonably be traced between the human remains and their associated funerary objects at Arroyo Hondo and the tribes and pueblos that were consulted.
It was agreed among the Puebloan officials that Zia Pueblo be designated to act on behalf of all of the pueblos in the repatriation of the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo human remains. After consultation with the Archeological Conservancy, in March 2006 Zia officials approved of the reinternment of the excavated human remains and associated burial objects at the Arroyo Hondo site. This, the people of Arroyo Hondo were returned to the village in which they had died and were buried. The following day, Zia spiritual leaders held a closed, private ceremony at the site, and later blessed the Arroyo Hondo repository that once housed the remains as well as those involved in the reinternment.