Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Traci LeBrun
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Human remains likely part of historic burial site

 

Traci LeBrun

Jim Jones, cultural resources director of Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, stands outside the construction site where human remains were found last week.

Rumors of Al Capone slayings and missing person identification may have been laid to rest over the weekend at the site in Pine City where two bodies have been recently unearthed. Hamline anthropology forensic students, along with officials from the Minnesota Council of Indian Affairs, are "leaning toward" the remains found on the eastern shore of Lake Pokegama being those of Ojibwe descent.

"We are leaning toward Ojibwe descent (in the remains that were found on the 15000 block of Sunset Trail). There is strong indication based on a mission being in the area and the remains found on the site," stated Jim Jones, cultural resources director of Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.

"We have nearly a complete person, but we only have the remains of the second person," stated Jones. "No artifacts (such as clothing or jewelry) have been found."

Jones stated in an interview with the Pine County Courier that there are several indicators pointing to Native American descent.

The incisors found in one of the craniums are shovel-shaped which is characteristic to no other population according to Jones. A coffin, or fragments of, was also found on site.

"There is evidence of a coffin now. The coffin predates the house which was built in 1952. The way the coffin was constructed, being a wooden box type coffin, indicates Native American construction. Based on the square cut nails that were found, we are likely dealing with an 1800s burial," stated Jones. He added that coffins were used in this time in history. The coffin was sitting in near proximity to the building's footings which made the findings first seem like those of a homicide. "We are slowly excavating down to the rest of the human remains."

Jones and the digging crew are treating the remains as Native American and working with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe but state that the individuals may be of mixed descent, particularly of Native American and Caucasian. He added that DNA results will take months to return to further determine ethnic affiliation.

Jones also stated that a mission was built very near the site in the 1840s and it is rumored to have been attacked by the Dakota War Party where two young Ojibwe girls were killed. The remains of the individuals found appear to be those of men, however.

According to local historian and history teacher, Mary Ellen Sauser, in the earliest days, the Pine City area was inhabited by Native Americans and became a rallying place because of its junction between two waterways: Cross Lake and Lake Pokegama. And according to historians, trade activity took place on the west side of Cross Lake due to some copper deposits.

"The Minnesota area was originally inhabited by the Dakota. The Ojibwe had contact with the French around the Great Lakes in the mid 1600s and gained guns through fur trade. There was a hundred-year conflict between the Ojibwe and Dakota in which the Ojibwe eventually pushed the Dakota into North and South Dakota and south of the Minnesota River," added Sauser.

If the site is proven to be an Indian burial ground, it would not be the first in the area to be discovered. Sauser stated that in the late 1960s a set of Indian burial mounds were identified south and west of Lake Pokegama on the Snake River. That burial site is now called Stumne Mounds. These mounds were a significant find, according to Sauser, dating back to the Paleoindian-age of approximately 600 AD.

But for now, the owner of the Sunset Trail property is waiting it out, and Jones stated he is working with both the property owner and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in deciding what to do with the remains once they are all located.

"I am working with landowners right now. They will still retain the property. The recommendation from the Band is that they will put them (the human remains) back in place or bury them in protected areas on site and the site would still be a cemetery," stated Jones.

"We have some additional monitoring work to do," stated Jones when asked how long the archaeological crew would remain on the property.

 

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