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A federal judge has delayed until April a hearing into whether American Indian artifacts seized by federal agents should be returned to a privately-operated museum in southeast Montana.

The hearing had been scheduled for Friday before U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.

The government seized the war bonnets, medicine bundles and other artifacts from the Custer Battlefield Museum in 2005 and 2008 during an investigation into artifact fraud. The items are being held as contraband, based on allegations they were obtained illegally.

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But no charges were ever filed, and museum director Christopher Kortlander wants the artifacts returned.

The government says it needs more time to depose witnesses prior to the hearing before Cebull.

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