McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 17, 2013

Investigation into Native American skeletal remains continues

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Investigation into Native American skeletal remains found in Lake Eufaula in January continues, according to officials.

Angela Berg archeologist with the Chief Medical Examiner’s office said after further investigation it was determined that bones were are not prehistoric as previously reported.

“They are historic bones, not prehistoric and we have identified them as Native American,” Berg said.

“We haven’t determined what tribe they are from.”

She said the identification of the ethnicity was based in part on the bones structure and the way the teeth are shaped.

“We also found some pottery and beads which we will use to help identify the tribe the remains belong to.”

She said several tribes have shown interest in the remains and if the tribe can be confirmed, the remains along with the soil and items found with the remains, will be repatriated to that tribe to be properly buried.

“Usually a tribe will still bury the remains even if we can’t confirm    the exact tribe,” Berg said.

In January the Pittsburgh County Sheriff’s Department and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation were at Lake Eufaula to investigate a report of skeletal remains found a recently surfaced area of Lake Eufaula.

At the scene two skulls, teeth, pelvic bones and other remains were found partially buried along with a rope and a brick on the shoreline.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said because of the recent drought, areas of the lake that had been submerged were surfacing.

Kerns said a number of people called to report the sighting of the remains.

 Berg said when remains are found on state property such as Lake Eufaula the US Army Corp of Engineers archeologist is usually called to excavate the remains,

But because there appeared to be possible crime scene, with a brick and a rope found with the remains, the Chief Medical Examiner’s office was called and she was sent to investigate the remains.

Meanwhile Berg said she doesn’t know when her part of the investigation will be complete.

“Once I’m done with my report, it will go to the Tribal Preservation Office and they will make the decision on where the remains will go from here.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.