Quapaw tribe announces discovery of historic burial site in Arkansas

By The Associated Press

QUAPAW, Okla. — Members of the Quapaw tribe are teaming up with descendants of African-American slaves to research and preserve an archaeological site that contains the remains of their ancestors.

The burial sites were discovered on land that the Quapaw Tribe purchased in 2013. The land was part of the Thibault Plantation near the Little Rock Port Authority. Before that, it was part of the Quapaw’s historic reservation.

John House with the Arkansas Archaeological Survey estimated that the Native American graves at the site date back to 1400 to 1600, while the African-American graves in the same location probably date back from before the Civil War to the early 1900s.

House also said it is not uncommon for a prehistoric grave site to later serve as a grave site for other cultures.

“This is a very special place on the landscape,” House said in a statement. “So much of Arkansas’ history is told only through the lens of what occurred after white Europeans came here. But there were centuries of prior history, very much of it involving the Quapaw Tribe and other Native American tribes.”

John Berrey, chairman of the tribe, said, “We aren’t sure yet exactly what we will do at the site, so the immediate desire is to simply not disturb it.”

Tribal members recently met with members of the Preservation of African American Cemeteries to discuss the preservation of the site, but both groups said they wished to keep the burial site’s exact location a secret to prevent looting for historic artifacts.

This discovery comes on the heels of a similar one last summer, this one near Osceola, in northeastern Arkansas.

Berry said at that time that it was a Quapaw settlement, part of the area where Quapaws made contact with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541, their first contact with Europeans.

Berrey also said that increased revenue that tribes have now from casinos and other businesses aids them in protecting tribal artifacts and cultural sites.

Construction Workers Unearth Native American Burial Ground

by Rowena Shaddox
Fox 40 June 6, 2013


Caltrans workers, widening and repaving a portion of Highway 88 in Ione, unearthed a Native American burial ground.

“They have a monitor come in, and they have to be there to make sure if they find anything, they have to stop,” Amber Guerra, who is married to a Miwok tribe member.

A Caltrans investigator confirmed today, that a monitor from the tribe was already on hand at the construction site, just in case any more remains or artifacts are uncovered.

Out of respect for the tribe, a Caltrans spokeswoman declined comment.

And while the Miwok tribe wouldn’t say specifically where the remains were found, in order to protect the site from vandals, they did say, “The Ione Band of Miwok Indians does everything within its power to make sure all of our Burial Sites, Cultural Sites and Sacred Sites are as protected.”

“It’s just like anyone else. You don’t want someone messing with your ancestors remains. So they do, they take it very seriously,” Guerra said.

Those who live near sacred burial sites, say finding remains isn`t unusual for this area.

“It’s peaceful. It’s a common feeling, especially if you know the background of the culture,” said Amber, an Ione resident who lives near a Miwok burial site.

A culture Amber Guerra has become a part of, married to a tribal member.

“Different times of the season, they walk from here to the Ione reservation, to Plymouth, to Pioneer. all over. So you’ll find all kinds of stuff, everywhere,” Guerra said.

“It’s mainly just the tribal people that are in control of everything that goes on with the reservation. Any type of remains of any sort, they take care of it. We don’t have any access. It’s very sacred,” resident Amber added.

Watch the news coverage here.