- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Trump administration on Wednesday said Finland has agreed to return American Indian remains that were excavated from the Southwest and taken to northern Europe at the end of the 19th century.

Those remains, including a number of petrified bodies, will be returned to tribes in the U.S. and “put back where they were buried,” said Robert Pence, the U.S. ambassador to Finland.

“It’s special to us, and I think it’s probably special to indigenous peoples everywhere around the globe who were all concerned about paying appropriate respect to those who have departed before us,” Mr. Pence said during a press conference between President Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

The ambassador said the remains involved tribes from Arizona and Colorado, mainly the Hopi.

Gustaf Nordenskiold, a scholar of Finnish-Swedish descent, also took hundreds of artifacts from the Mesa Verde region in Colorado in the 1890s. They ended up at the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.

The museum took an inventory of the collection and determined it contains 600 items, including the remains of 20 individuals and 28 funerary objects.

Mr. Pence, who is no relation to Vice President Mike Pence, said the situation was outlined in a stack of papers he found on his desk when he took over the job. He thanked the State Department and Finnish government for striking an agreement to return the remains and objects.

Mr. Trump, who delights in taking care of problems that festered under previous administrations, said the situation languished for “many, many years.”

The president announced the agreement during a raucous press conference that focused on a House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

While Mr. Niinisto stood quietly, Mr. Trump accused Democrats of pushing a “scam” and “fraudulent crime on the American people.”

The leaders did manage to squeeze in some details from their bilateral talks.

They discussed ways to repel Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic and China’s own forays into the region.

The Chinese have claimed “near-Arctic” status, a designation the Trump administration finds ludicrous.

“Simply put, we believe that the affairs of the Arctic should be governed by the actual nations of the Arctic,” Mr. Trump said. “As you know, there are other people coming into the Arctic and we don’t like it. And we can’t let it happen, and we won’t let it happen.”

A joint statement released by the U.S. and Finnish presidents said the Arctic does offer economic opportunities for their own nations, “but environmental changes such as the diminishing of sea ice raise environmental concerns.”

“The United States and Finland share a commitment to clean air and water and environmental protection, including the reduction of particulate matter, and with it, black carbon,” the statement said.

Mr. Trump also said Finland is a vital partner in ensuring the security of 5G cellular networks, citing the partnership between Nokia, a Finnish telecom giant, and Bell Labs in New Jersey.

The U.S. is encouraging European nations to use alternatives to Huawei, a Chinese company the administration blacklisted over fears its 5G equipment could be used for espionage or to disrupt American networks — a charge the company denies.

Mr. Niinisto said the European Union is conducting a risk assessment of Huawei that will be completed within a few weeks.

“After that, we have to decide together, in the European Union, which kind of tools we need to protect ourselves,” Mr. Niinisto said.

The Finnish leader acknowledged that Nokia is also a major player in the 5G arena, but said the company can speak for itself as the security debate unfolds.

Mr. Trump also offered his condolences after a sword-wielding attacker killed one woman and injured 10 others at a vocational school in the Finnish city of Kuopio this week.

Mr. Niinisto, meanwhile, complimented the U.S. history on display at a number of Smithsonian museums he visited in Washington.

“Mr. President, you have here a great democracy,” he said. “Keep it going on.”

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