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Bones determined to be Native-American

A forensic anthropologist has declared skull and bone fragments found on a construction site near the Retsil Veteran’s Home are not from an unmoved grave as police originally believed, but are that of a Native-American male who died at least 100 years ago.

Kitsap County Chief Deputy Coroner Louise Hall said Katherine Taylor, a forensic investigator with King County, on Saturday examined human remains found April 9 by a construction worker excavating near the city’s sewage treatment plant on Beach Drive.

“The bones are of Native-American origin and are believed to have been from a male aged 25 to 40,” Hall said, explaining that Taylor also estimated that the bones, which she said were quite well-preserved, had been buried there for more than 100 years.

Hall said although the entire skeleton was not found, it was fortunate that a fairly large piece of the skull was recovered, since there are marked differences in the shape of the cranial bones between people of Native-American and, for example, Northern European descent.

“There are structural differences,” Hall said. “It was a tremendous help (that we found a skull).”

Hall said both the estimated age of the deceased person and how long the bones are believed to have been buried rule out the possibility that the remains are from a former Retsil resident. But a spokeswoman for the Veteran’s Home said it was never a possibility.

“It was just a rumor (that there was a grave left behind) when the veterans’ cemetery was moved around 1914,” said Heidi Audette, regional communications director. Audette explained there was a man who was originally listed as being buried at the old Retsil cemetery site that had actually been buried in Seattle, which she said may be the source of the confusion.

Assistant City Engineer Deanna Cole said the city hired Glenn Hartmann, a state-approved archaeologist, to examine the remains and the construction site to determine if more remains or other artifacts could be nearby, which is required when Native-American remains are discovered.

She said Hartmann will be working on and off-site for the next couple of days, and said he did not request construction be halted entirely. Rather, Cole said, the area where the remains were found has been roped off, and workers had stopped excavating as of Monday.

A similar situation occurred several years ago when construction of the Port Orchard City Hall was halted after Native American artifacts were found, Cole said.

An archaeologist examined that site, as well, which Cole said cost the city around $10,000.

City and state officials are also working with members of the Suquamish Tribe to determine the best course of action. According to tribal spokesman Leonard Forsman, since Kitsap County is in Suquamish territory, any Native American remains are considered to be from that tribe.

“Our goal is to eventually bring the remains back to the earth,” said Forsman, who is also member of the tribe. He explained that the tribe’s main concerns are that both the found bones and any other remains or artifacts potentially on the site are not harmed.

“We are asking the archaeologist to handle that for us,” Forsman said, adding that he hoped someday that inspections of such construction sites could be done in advance, “to prevent a lot of headaches and stress.”

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