Disinterment in Knik
Ancient remains found
By Andrea Gusty, CBS 11 News Reporter
Ancient human remains found in the Mat-Su Valley have residents and historians talking about the find and what it means for the Native people of Cook Inlet. The bones were first found a month ago on the banks of Wasilla. The ancient remains are more than 100 years old. CBS 11 News spoke to those who have devoted their lives to protecting these graves. They gave us insight into what the unearthing means for the Dena'ina Athabascans who still live here today.
The bones eroded out of the bank along Cook Inlet, naturally, and were found by a person who saw them sticking out of the ground. This wasn't exactly a surprise to those who know the area. Ancient graves are scattered all around Knik and today they are mostly unmarked.
Friends of Old Knik, a group that works to identify and protect ancient graves, says they think these remains belong to a woman who lived on the banks of Cook Inlet more than 100 years ago.
Nancy Sult of Friends of Old Knik
“Maybe she would have been looked down upon for the suicide or for marrying a white man, and maybe she wasn't welcome in the other cemeteries. It's just one of the many people who we don't know where they are buried. So, it's a really sad that all this history has been lost, but still really important to keep them buried and respect where they are,” said Nancy Sult of Friends of Old Knik.
While it is still unclear who's remains these are, state medical examiners say they will keep the case open to try to find out.
Even though these bones came out of the ground naturally, traditional Athabascan beliefs still dictate that if a grave is disturbed, the spirit of that person walks the earth until they are ceremonially put to rest. So once these bones are released from state custody, they have to be purified and reburied in the traditional manner by the Cook Inlet Dena'ina tribe.
For more information on what you can do to help protect the other graves in the Knik area, you can visit www.knik.org or call Mayor Keller at 373-9055.
To contact Andrea, call 907-273-3186
No problem. We'll contact you either way. Kathy
From: nancy sult [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 8:40 AM
Subject: RE: Knik Remains
Thank you for your responce.
If the bones are EuroAmerican our group would like to provide burial arrangements.
Friends of Old Knik
From: "Day, Kathy" <Kathy_Day@health.state.ak.us>
To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Knik Remains
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 07:40:33 -0800
Dear Ms. Sult,
Thanks for the email. We are still working on the analysis of the human remains that were found. Prior to going out to the site I personally contacted Jack Elkhorn of the Knik Tribal Council and made him aware of the situation. I also spoke to Larry Theodore, property owner, by phone and then in person, about our intent. Currently we only have parts of the lower body that have eroded away. We are still working on the analysis of the bones and will keep you posted of our progress. Our initial concern was to insure that the remains found were not recent and the result of foul play. We also needed to make sure there were no other human remains on the beach, as, we were notified of the problem by someone who found a femur lying on the beach while he was walking his dog. I'll forward your email on to Dave McMahan, archaeologist for the state who went to the site with me. The remains we found were definitely not those of a child, and we're still waiting to hear if our person is a female, and if Native decent can be verified. As you are aware, there are other buried individuals in the vicinity that weren't Native. Either way, we agree that they should be reburied once we are done. Feel free to call me if you have any other questions.
Kathleen Day MS
Alaska State Medical Examiner's Office
4500 S. Boniface Parkway
Anchorage, Alaska 99507