August 7, 2002
GOOD HART - Tribal officials have confirmed that human remains discovered at a construction site here earlier this week are those of an American Indian.
Emmet County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Bobra Johnston said a curator with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians on Tuesday positively identified a partial skull and other bones unearthed by a contractor as being those of an American Indian.
Johnston said tribal archives curator Joe Mitchell determined the decades-old remains are likely of an elderly female because the bones are smaller in size and there was evidence of arthritic condition in a femur bone.
She said the remains were discovered Monday on property off Lamkin Road in Good Hart by an excavating crew from Matthews Landscaping in Harbor Springs. The homeowners had hired the crew to alleviate a ditch-side drainage problem that was related to construction of guest quarters on their property, Johnston said.
Often when American Indian remains are discovered in the area, Johnston said the tribe will re-bury the bones at another tribal burial ground. However, she said the property owners in this week's case, a middle-aged married couple who declined to give their names to the media, want the bones found on their land to stay right where they are.
"The homeowners want the remains to remain there because they believe this was meant to be the (Indian's) final resting place," said Johnston. "The woman (homeowner) told me she's always been aware there were spirits around there because she's sensed their presence. But they're friendly and protective spirits so she wants them to stay."
Johnston said Mitchell and tribal archaeologist Wes Andrews believe remains found this week are only one set, but she noted the Good Hart area is known to be a tribal burial zone where many others have been found in the past, usually by construction crews.
"We get calls like this about once a year," Johnston said.
Johnston said the homeowners knew their property was possibly part of an old Indian burial ground. She said the homeowners have lived at their Good Hart home for 15 years and have been extremely cooperative with police and tribal officials.
"They've been absolutely wonderful about all this," Johnston said, adding that the landscaping crew was also very understanding in stopping their work to allow officials time to identify and document the remains.
She stressed it's important for any contractor to contact authorities whenever such a discovery is made, and assured that tribal officials will work swiftly to keep work stoppages to a minimum.