Bones found on Washington ranch reburied by Oregon tribe

Baker City, Oregon (AP) 4-08

An Oregon tribe has reburied old human bones found by an excavation crew on Idaho Power Co. land in Washington state.

Elders from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation joined archaeologists from the utility drung March to rebury the bones found at the Daly Creek Ranch near Richland, Oregon., just north of the state border.

Teara Farrow, who manages the cultural resources protection program for the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, said Idaho Power allowed tribal religious leaders to bury the bones near where they were found.

“Our main priority is to get the remains back in the ground in a proper resting place,” she said. “Idaho Power did a very good job in working with the tribes.”

Dennis Lopez, an Idaho Power spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Boise, said the company did not publicize the discovery of the bones because it does not want people to search for artifacts on the ranch, which is closed to the public.

“Also our concern is that these are human remains, and we want to maintain a certain level of decorum,” Lopez said.

A tribal expert who studied the bones – including parts of a jawbone and the wrist – concluded they are the remains of a man who was probably at least 50 years old when he died, Farrow said.

As is customary, the tribes did not send any bones to a lab for radiocarbon tests to determine their age, she said.

“We don’t believe in destroying any part of the bone,” Farrow said.

But based on the condition of the bones, their depth and the abundance of stone tool fragments in the area, Idaho Power and tribal officials agreed that the remains were those of an American Indian.

They were found in January by an Idaho Power worker digging a trench for a replacement irrigation pipe.

Umatilla elders conducted the ceremony, but Farrow said it’s possible the man was a member of the Nez Perce tribe.

She noted the Cayuse people, one of three groups that constitute the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, sometimes traveled, hunted and camped together.

The Daly Creek Ranch covers 10,000 acres purchased by Idaho Power in December 2006. It is part of the 6.4 million acres in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington that the Umatilla tribes ceded to the U.S. government in the 1855 treaty that created the Umatilla Reservation.