Elders to decide future of Huron burial ground
ROBERTA AVERY SPECIAL TO THE STAR
MIDLAND, Ont.With her eyes filled with tears for her ancestors who have been disturbed after 350 years, Michele Bedard hardened her resolve yesterday to remain at a recently discovered Indian burial pit.
"We are the eyes and ears of those who cannot be here," said Bedard, an elder of the Huron Wendat nation. A burial pit discovered last week by a backhoe operator during the construction of a new $6 million arena in Midland touches on a Huron Wendat ossuary and dates back to around 1650, said Dean Knight, an archeologist from Wilfrid Laurier University.
Bedard, who prefers to use the term Wendat instead of Huron, heard about the discovery of the burial ground containing the remains of a village of 300 to 400 people through the Internet at her home south of Barrie.
"Something told me to check my e-mail on Saturday morning before I even had my first cup of tea. I was devastated when I read the e-mail that was being passed among our people about the discovery," said Bedard.
The Wendats, one of the largest aboriginal groups in Ontario before European settlement, were scattered across North America and now live in Quebec, Kansas, Illinois and Ontario. They believe their people have two souls, one that moves on to the afterlife, the other which stays with the body after death, said Bedard.
"So we can feel their pain at being disturbed," said Bedard.
It's especially upsetting that some of the remains were taken into the Huron Museum in paper bags, while others were part of two truck loads of fill dumped in a nearby park, said Bedard's son, James Hyland. "That's why we will be here everyday until they are returned," said Hyland.
Knight spent yesterday supervising the backhoe digging of the area surrounding the three-metre wide ossuary to check if there were any other adjacent graves. A stretch of tarmac was stripped off the road , but there were no signs of other burials, said Knight.
Groups of natives, who stood by watching quietly, were at times overcome by grief. Some had come from Quebec, others from Six Nations near Brantford, there were also local Metis and Ojibway.
David Sanford, a Mohawk from Toronto, who acts as a liaison between the Huron in Ontario and the Grand Chief said it will be up to the elders to decide if they want the remains reburied and the site declared a cemetery.
"We will abide by the wishes of the aboriginal people," said Midland Mayor George MacDonald.