Positive and negative feedback on the 'Remains' series

By Don Springer
Charleston Gazette, December 27, 2001

My Series Additions
Several things happened during the time my "Returning the Remains" series was running. I am going to wrap up those happenings in this column. For those who may not have seen the series, it concerned the returning to the graves the remains of 664 Native Americans that were disinterred in the 1960s near Buffalo.

$10,000 Matching Funds Donation
Jeri Matheney, manager of State Corporate Communications for American Electric Power, informed me a few days back that AEP will donate $10,000 on a matching funds basis to the effort. The donation and some other facts are contained in another article I wrote for Metro that appears elsewhere in this issue.

In a meeting with Matheney and Joe Jones, Manager of Community Services, I learned the donation is intended to assist the Buffalo area group in hiring someone to work on several problems. That individual will be expected to do the legwork and research on the federal law (s) and other problems associated with returning the remains from Ohio State University and having them reinterred at the original burial site.

AEP is the current owner of the property where the hoped-for burials will take place. Matheney said AEP separated the property issue from the burial issue and decided the repatriation issue should come first. This brought about the offer of the donation.

Eastern Cherokee Response
After several attempts to talk with someone from the Eastern Cherokee offices in Cherokee, N.C., I received a telephone call about the time the series began. We talked for some time. It seems the Eastern Cherokees are interested in the issue and believe the reburial should take place. That office is interested in keeping abreast of developments.

I asked if the Cherokees were concerned about the publicity surrounding the issue. The response was, "Usually we are," but in this case, with the entire issue being so well known, the concern of reburial quietly in a secret location must be overlooked. The Cherokee Nation simply wants to see the remains returned to their place of burial.

I would not be surprised to see a representative of the North Carolina Cherokees travel to Buffalo and take part in the planning in 2002.

A Mistaken Quote
Darla Hoffman (now Darla Spencer), an archeologist with the Cultural Research Analysts Inc. office in Hurricane, was one of the people I interviewed and quoted in the series. She sent me an e-mail advising I had misquoted her by saying she believed the remains to be Shawnee. I checked my notes and found she was correct. While some archeologists did so advise, she was not one of those. I apologize for this error. [Note: this has been corrected in the online version]

In her e-mail Hoffman says "I tend to think they were more than likely a Siouxan-speaking group." However, she added, it is probably wrong to guess what tribe they were associated, as many tribes lived or traveled through the area. From all I have heard, I agree with her and believe we will probably never know what tribe, or tribes, they represent.

On the Negative Side
As I said in the series, not everyone agrees with reburying the remains. One of those I heard from was Roger Wise who is an archeologist with the West Virginia Division of Highways. Wise asked for permission to include my articles on his website (which I granted) and stated he would probably write a rebuttal. Wise, like many archeologists, dislikes reburials, as they represent a loss of education and learning opportunities for the future. There is some merit in his case.

I also got a bitter e-mail from a Native American descendent from Madison who has little use for my series, or for me for that matter. She dislikes the entire affair and believes it should be left in the hands of the descendents. She believes there are many who feel as she does. She ended her e-mail with "... you are not a nice man and I don't want to talk to you again! Ever!" Stick that in your craw, Springer!

© 2001 Don Springer. All rights reserved. Used with permission
Don Springer may be reached on the Internet at touchlife@worldnet.att.net

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CWVA's Introduction to the Buffalo Village Series
Part 1: Obstacles hamper return of Native American remains to Buffalo
Part 2: Many hands involved in excavating remains
Part 3: Remains transported state to state for study
Part 4: Local woman labors to bring back ancestors' remains
Part 5: Buffalo pastor, councilman strive to bring back remains
Part 6: Positive and negative feedback on the 'Remains' series