BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) — The closing of a Pamida store in Bemidji has revived a debate on American Indian remains buried on the property — with some members of the Indian community saying this is a chance to restore honor to a site their ancestors occupied for thousands of years.
Skeletal remains of 22 people were uncovered as an addition to the store was being built in 1988. It was determined that the remains were Dakota Sioux, and elders from Sioux communities decided at the time that the remains should be reburied where they were discovered.
Megan Treuer, who is Ojibwe, told Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/ADN2NC ) that her family was so angry when the remains were discovered that they never shopped at the store again.
"Just the fact that people are going into this store right now to buy whatever they're going to buy ... it seems like a real ironic combination, because they're walking on a huge grave," she said.
Treuer and other American Indians said the store should be razed and a memorial should be built at the site.
Since 1976, Indian burial sites have been protected under state law.
American Indian remains have been unearthed in Bemidji before. In 1998, the city hired a Red Lake Nation archaeological team to map all known burial sites so they could be better protected.
Jim Jones, cultural resource director for the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said he is frustrated by a lack of respect for hallowed Indian ground. He said he knows some construction projects have gone forward near burial sites, but he was never told about them.
When it comes to the Pamida site, Jones said, the Indian Affairs Council believes it would be best if the building was removed. But that's up to the landowner, who hasn't talked about his plans for the site.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.