Federal agency accused of violating law covering Native American remains, relics

An independent federal agency is calling for an investigation into allegations that U.S. officials ignored a law requiring them to monitor, preserve and ultimately return human remains and relics to American Indian tribes.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has directed the Interior Department to investigate whether U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials in California and parts of Nevada and Oregon have violated the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

A whistleblower complained that the bureau in Sacramento erased records and altered spreadsheets in an effort to hide mismanagement of collections under the agency's control, resulting in hundreds of remains and artifacts being boxed up for storage or lost.

The watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility tells The Associated Press that it hopes the inquiry will be expanded.