Putting their souls to rest
NAGPRA’s intent is to identify ownership and to ensure the rightful disposition of cultural items that are in federal possession or control. NAGPRA mandates that installation commanders summarize, inventory, and repatriate cultural items in the possession or control of the installation to lineal descendants or to culturally affiliated federally recognized Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations.
Richard Edging an Archeologist at Fort Leonard Wood developed a very interesting concept; he took the time to research a group of Indians and determined that they lived together in the Northern Ozarks of Missouri as one people. This in itself is not show stopping news; there were many tribes that were made of a larger group. Tribes would get too big and they would split, then they would split again, and the new group would become an independent band. What makes this so interesting is the group of people it brings together.
The State of Missouri has been most difficult to work with on the issues of NAGPRA (Native American Grave Protection Repatriation Act), ARPA (Archeology Resources Protection Act), and NHPA Section 106 (National Historic Preservation Act). They have also been reluctant to return the remains that have been uncovered In the Missouri area because they do not believe that the Indian people have a strong claim.
This is where Richard Edging’s book becomes so very important. He has brought a group of tribes together and has given them the tools they need to say these were our people, now let us rebury them and put their souls to rest. This group is made of the following tribes: the Kaw, Osage, Ponca of Nebraska, Ponca of Oklahoma, Omaha and the Quapaw. With regard to the Dhegiha; there have been many references over the years but none have placed them in Missouri with such strong ties.
In 2006, Richard Edging contacted the Kaw Nation asking for the opportunity to bring the Dhegiha coalition together with Fort Leonard Wood and write a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement). This MOA would make it possible to return 60 human remains recovered on the Fort to be reburied. Most were the result of excavations in the pursuit of research or accidental finds that occurred with people going in and out of the caves within the area. The human remains range from the late Paleo Dalton time period of 8500 B.C. through the ancient, Early Middle and Final Woodlands that end in A.D. 1450. We have an occupation span of 9,950 years.
In 2007, the group came together and began to negotiate. This was a long and monotonous progression through time and culture. We returned to the negotiation table on Sept. 25, 2010 and by Oct. 1, we had a document that is sure to guide the people that have been displaced for so long, to a final resting place, where they will never again be disturbed. The advent General of Fort Leonard Wood and the leaders of the Dhegiha Council will now need to take the final step to sign the document. This document has not only given the remains the right to find a resting place in the earth, but will also assure they will never be unearthed as long as the Military are watching over them. We have hopes that the ancestral remains will be in the ground or back in the caves by the end of the year. It is our plan to replace them as close to the original removal point as possible, and still maintain the military’s security.
Fort Leonard Wood is 61,410 acres that is federally protected from the people who would wish to profit from a return reburial like this one. We will be reburying in the area that is already secured and protected, and the caves have been fitted with metal gates that will allow bats and wildlife to come and go with no human intrusions.
In conclusion, the Kaw, Osage, Ponca, Quapaw and Omaha along with the Cultural Resources Management Program of Fort Leonard Wood have dedicated their time and experience to make this a success. All we have to do now is make sure it works.
— Crystal Douglas, Director