By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has completed the largest repatriation and reburial of human remains to date. According to the office, a total of 177 sets of human remains and 616 associated funerary objects were reburied recently in Dover, Tenn.
The remains and funerary objects were from eight sites in Kentucky and Tennessee and were being housed previously at the Webb Museum at the University of Kentucky and the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.
“This is the largest reburial project that the THPO has conducted thus far, in terms of the number of human remains reburied,” said Miranda Panther, EBCI NAGPRA officer. “The EBCI THPO consulted with the Nashville District and other southeastern tribes throughout the eight years of the project. There are a number of variables to work through during consultation, but it typically proceeds as follows: consultation through emails, teleconferences, and in person; establishment of culturally-affiliated versus culturally-unidentifiable; notices being published; and reburial.”
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians was the lead tribe in the repatriation, and Panther noted it was a joint disposition between the EBCI, the Cherokee Nation (Okla.), and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Okla.).
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – Nashville District was an invaluable partner on this NAGPRA project,” said Panther. “They allowed us to rebury on their property, in a safe, secure location close to the sites of the original burials.”
She noted that their office received a consultation letter from the USACE on this project in May 2010. “We have been actively consulting with them since that time.”
The burials were conducted by Johi Griffin Jr. and Beau Carroll with the EBCI THPO office.
“I believe that that there is no greater honor than having the responsibility of returning our ancestors back to where they belong, in Mother Earth and not on a shelf,” said Griffin. “The planning and scheduling of these events is a long and arduous journey. From start to finish it takes years of planning with various government agencies and educational institutions. I would like to thank Miranda Panther and the Army Corps of Engineers for completion of this NAPRA project.”