DURANT – Members of the Choctaw Nation recently journeyed to Mississippi to conduct a repatriation and reburial of an unknown Choctaw ancestor. The Choctaw Nation worked with, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to ensure possession as well as a protected burial for the individual.
Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., Cultural Preservation Executive Director Sue Folsom, Director of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department and Tribal Archaeologist, Dr. Ian Thompson, Historic Preservation Senior Section 106 Reviewer Lindsey Bilyeu, Historic Preservation Section 106 Reviewer Daniel Ragle, Tribal Chaplain Olin Williams and Nation staff member Sheila Kirven, were present for assistance with the acceptance of remains and burial ceremony.
Although the identity of the deceased individual is without identification, Thompson explained, “The remains came from an individual who lived in what is now western Mississippi before European contact. He or she did not call themselves Choctaw, but was nonetheless ancestral to today’s Choctaw people, through subsequent mixing of his or her descendants with Choctaw communities. Through this mixing, this person’s genes and culture live on in the Choctaw community today.”
Kirven stated that while on site, “I couldn’t help but wonder if the remains could even have been one of my ancestors. I often think about my Choctaw ancestors from Mississippi. I wonder about their lives and how the removal affected them. I wonder how they lived; think about their heartaches, about the things that made them happy and even the simple things of life that were taken from them. I always wish that I could know more. As I stood at the grave that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if that could have been one of my people. And then I realized that this person was because the Choctaw people are one family.”
For additional information about historic preservation, Choctaw repatriation, cultural preservation and the Choctaw Nation, visit www.choctawnation.com. More about the Mississippi Repatriation of a Choctaw Ancestor in the September Biskinik issue.