Ohio State to return American Indian remains to West Virginia

Winfield, West Virginia (AP) 4-08

The skeletal remains of about 600 American Indians kept at Ohio State University for more than 40 years will be returned to West Virginia for reburial.

Several groups in West Virginia have worked for about 10 years to bring the remains back to West Virginia’s Putnam County from Ohio State, where they were sent after being found at an archaeological excavation in Buffalo, W.Va., in the early 1960s.

The federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act allows federally recognized tribes to reclaim American Indian remains and artifacts from museums and universities. But Putnam County Commissioner Joe Haynes said no tribe ever reclaimed the remains.

Federal officials have determined that the remains cannot be linked to a specific tribe, clearing the way for the County Commission to claim them, Ohio State spokesman Earle Holland said.

Commissioners signed an agreement with Ohio State to legally claim the remains and have them returned to Putnam County.

“We were limited as to who we could turn them over to,” Holland said. “We’ve tried to serve as the proper custodians of the remains while they’ve been our responsibility.”

Haynes said the American Indian Council of West Virginia supports the commission’s action.

“It makes my heart glad that the county commissioners have taken it upon themselves to bring the remains home to Buffalo,” said Beverly Wright, the council’s founder.

A site for the reburial has not yet been chosen, Haynes said.