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Bones unearthed; reburial carries hefty price
Saturday, October 19, 2002
By LYNDA V. MAPES
Seattle Times staff reporter
"On a finger of land many years ago, two adults and a child were laid to
their final rest. But it was not to be a peaceful one.
Their West Seattle grave, believed to be an Indian burial site, has been
disturbed not once but twice, most recently by mistake this month when a
laborer digging beneath a retaining wall found human bones.
A routine home repair inadvertently became anything but, and raised a key
question: When a homeowner discovers human remains, who pays the bill for
Jan Deeds and her partner, Ron Mandt, have worked with at least four city
and state agencies and three local tribes, and run up an estimated
archaeology bill of about $10,000 in their attempt to do the right thing:
Treat the bones with respect.
Yesterday, members of the Muckleshoot Tribe came to the house and laid the
remains to rest with song and blessings in a handmade cedar box. It will be
covered with cement and sealed, hopefully for good this time.
That's a far cry from the first time bones were disturbed by a former owner
of the house. A 1952 article in The Seattle Times describes the homeowner as
"digging up a little excitement" in his basement and finding an "assortment"
of bones — including three skulls — that filled four boxes along with bits
of leather, some beads and an old steamer trunk.
What happened to those sacred remains is unknown. The homeowner resumed work
on his basement, apparently unfazed.
It was a different story with Deeds and Mandt. They stopped all work on the
site Oct. 3 after getting a message any homeowner would dread on their
answering machine, from their contractor: "We found some bones under here;
we'd like you to come by and look," said Neal Journeay, the foreman of the
Deeds called 911, and a week of waiting began. First came the coroner and
the crime-scene tape. Then the state, which told her to contact "the
appropriate tribes." Deeds went to a historical marker in her neighborhood
and figured out she should contact the Suquamish, who called an
archaeologist. It was a week before an archaeologist could begin sifting
sand from the site.
Even after yesterday's burial, complications continued. Cecile Hansen,
chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe, claimed she was not notified of the
ceremony, an outrage, she said.
While not recognized by the federal government, the Duwamish claim to be
Seattle's native people.
Deed and Mandt said their dealings with the tribes have been smooth and
mutually respectful. The state, both say, has been a different story.
"The Indians have been really cooperative. The state is not following their
own law," Mandt said.
The state Indian Graves and Records Act states that Indian remains are to be
respected. The law also says the state will pay for reburial and assist
Indian tribes in recovering remains if no other public agency is
But in this couple's case, Allyson Brooks, state historic-preservation
officer, said the state had no obligation to pay. "Unfortunately, they bear
the cost of removing the remains," Brooks said.
The state pays only if legislative funds are appropriated — and since the
law's passage in 1985, they never have been.
Brooks said the state has an obligation only to pay a private citizen for
reburial. The state will not pay a homeowner who decides to disturb a burial
site. The homeowner must bear the cost of an archaeologist monitoring and
sifting remains as they are removed, Brooks said.
Deed and Mandt said they had no choice but to disturb the site to repair the
The state is sending a bad message, the couple says. "This is punishment,"
"What is to keep the other neighbors who know what happened here from not
reporting an inadvertent find?" Mandt added. "The intent of the law is to
encourage voluntary reporting."
Kimberly Craven, executive director of the Governor's Office of Indian
Affairs, said the problem is the law is an unfunded mandate.
"It's a disincentive for people to report if they find out it is going to
cost them a bunch of money. What are they going to do, just throw remains in
the garbage? We could lose a wonderful archaeological site, and these
remains need to be treated with respect.
"You wouldn't want your grandmother dug up and thrown away. We need to
figure out how to pay for this."
For Deed and Mandt, the story is far from over. Apart from the bill that has
yet to arrive, there is the matter of the house. A routine inspection of the
foundation during the course of selling the house brought a crack in the
wall, and then the bones, to light.
The buyers backed out and Deed — a realtor — wonders how disclosure of the
grave will strike potential buyers of the $300,000 house, which sits vacant.
Deed lived in the house for years, her living room above the grave. Knowing
the bones are appropriately laid to rest now, she says, "it feels good to me
here. This house has been blessed.
"I just hope a future buyer feels that way."
Copyright 2002, The Seattle Times
Posted by Mikola 18 -- NDN AIM
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