Update: Body of Mille Lacs Band member released to family

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Members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe demanded the body of one of its recently deceased spiritual leaders be released to his family because doing an autopsy would violate their spiritual beliefs.

And their efforts were successful.

A district judge ordered the body of 65-year-old Mushkoop Aubid be given to his family, and on Monday morning they were able to bring his body home for a proper burial, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

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Aubid died over the weekend after crashing into a utility pole while driving westbound on Highway 210 in Carlton County, the State Patrol incident report shows. And because authorities believed a medical condition led to the crash, Aubid's body was taken to the University of Minnesota Duluth medical school for an autopsy, which was scheduled for Tuesday, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Aubid had a known heart condition.

But Aubid's family and members of the band had asked officials to let them take his body home without an autopsy, because doing one violates their spiritual beliefs, which require the body remain intact and the mouth be sewn shut, among other practices, the newspaper says.

Emily Johnson, who works on the staff of the chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, had told the Northland's NewsCenter that doing an autopsy against the family's will violates the American Indian Religious Freedom Act with regard to burial rights.

Family members and members of the band were at the university Sunday singing traditional songs and lighting a fire to honor Aubid. They vowed to stay there until his body was released.

Aubid's family has faced this before, the Duluth News Tribune says. When his father, George Aubid, died about 25 years ago, Mushkoob Aubid took his body from the hospital and despite the threat of prosecution, Northland's NewsCenter notes.

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