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Medical examiner resigns after criticism over autopsies on tribal members

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A medical examiner who controversially pushed to carry out autopsies on two Native Americans killed in separate car accidents recently is resigning from his post.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Thomas Uncini, who has been medical examiner of St. Louis County for 18 years, "quietly announced" he would be stepping down in the coming weeks.

Uncini came to prominence last month, when he planned to conduct autopsies on Mushkoob Aubid and Autumn Martineau in spite of the religious objections of their families and tribal leaders.

Both of the families were able to stop the autopsies at the last minute, the Associated Press reports, getting emergency orders due to religious reasons.

According to the AP, Uncini did not give any reasons for why he is leaving the role he has held since 1998, and the county has temporarily extended his contract until the end of June so it can find a replacement.

Aubid, 65, was a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe who died when his car struck a pole after leaving a highway in northern Minnesota on Feb. 7, MPR reports. Three days later, 24-year-old Martineau, of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, died in a separate crash in Cloquet.

MPR News notes that Uncini's plans to perform autopsies "incensed" their families, who practice Midewiwin, a form of the Ojibwe religion that considers the cutting of a body desecration.

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