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Ancient bones found at Aurora Shores are repatriated

Published: October 19, 2016 1:00 AM


Aurora -- Native American bones found in 1970 when Aurora Shores was being developed have been sent to an Eastern Woodland Native American organization for proper burial.

After conducting a "cleansing ceremony" recently at the Aurora Historical Society museum, the remains were returned to an Eastern Woodland Native American organization for burial in an undisclosed location.

Donna Augustine, known as "Thunderbird Turtle Woman," travelled from Maine to take possession of the remains.

Prior to repatriation, arrangements were made by historical society member Jeff Clark to have the bones scanned at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, and local professional photographer Scott Pease documented them for the society.

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Here's the story behind the remains:

In early June 1970 while excavating in Aurora Shores, backhoe operator George Butler of Newbury's Nightingale Excavating Co. reported a human skull rolled down a pile of dirt.

He soon discovered other bones nearby and notified Aurora police. Two skulls, three leg bones and a rib were recovered. The FBI was contacted and remains were sent to Washington, D.C. for identification.

Aurora Police Chief Arthur Robitaille reported the lab in Washington could "reveal the age of the bones and also the possibility of whether violent death was involved."

The Smithsonian Institution identified the remains as those of two Native Americans -- a male and female -- dating back probably 500 years.

The report and remains were returned to Aurora, with the Portage County coroner determining that the historical society should become the depository.

An attempt was made by developer Philip English to retain possession, as he threatened legal action. However, the coroner prevailed.

The remains remained in possession of the historical society and were stored in a location away from the museum. They were returned to the museum last spring and held in storage.

The society's board of trustees determined that retention of the remains and their display to the public was inappropriate, and they should be repatriated to a Native American organization for burial.

Historical society member Michael Thal made arrangements with the Eastern Woodland Native American organization, and the remains were turned over.

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