Report on Ritidian remains unsatisfactory - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Report on Ritidian remains unsatisfactory

by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was supposed to be reburial ceremony of two partial human remains uncovered by wild pigs and discovered by breadfruit pickers at Ritidian eight years ago. But there was not enough information to put the bones back.

State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon was surprised to be invited to a reburial ceremony of human remains hosted by the Guam National Wildlife Refuge set for earlier this month. "We got a letter invitation to attend a reburial ceremony so we were kind of a bit disturbed because any burials of archeological remains - we call them archeological reburials - they have to follow the general guidelines," she said.

And as Aguon tells KUAM, her department requested for more information and the postponement of the event. In return they received a report prepared by archeologist Mike Carson dated July 2013 and the rescheduling of the ceremony to this weekend, July 20th in light of the island's liberation. "They were persistent and adamant that the reburial will go forth without those documents because they have been out of the ground for eight years and they must now be returned to the ground. My response to that was well the Hornbostel collection's been out of the ground for almost 90 years and they're still not in the ground," she said.

Forwarding the report to SHPO's technical review committee member biological anthropologist Gary Heathcote, Heathcote called the report "inadequate beyond belief" lacking basic information for its sketchy burial descriptions and lack of inventory of the remains. "It's inadequate. Period. Inadequate," he said.

But it was red flags for Aguon, who says Fish & Wildlife's Oregon-based archeologist called for more information this morning. "He called the state archeologist John Mark Joseph and asked what kind of containers do we use, this and that. And I said that just shows you they're only now looking at their guidelines," he said. "Were they going to put our ancestors in shoe boxes? How deep are you going to put them? Are the pigs going to come around and is it going to be redistributed? Do you have a monument in place?," she said.

Guam National Wildlife Refuge manager Joseph Schwagerl tells KUAM his division was very pleased with the report prepared by Carson on the Ritidian findings.

But as a result of SHPO's outcry, he adds, "we're going to cancel and not going to waste any more our time. If they want the bones, we'd gladly transport them to them."

Although this is good news to Aguon, she says there's still a bigger battle ahead. "We've got hundreds of boxes of skeletal remains at the Guam Museum waiting to be reburied and I would wish that Governor Calvo would pick up this project of creating the Nafta I Mai Natas so we can rebury all these remains - bones, pieces of bones, in one burial site," he said.

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