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Hotel owner, tribe cooperate in repatriation of remains on Mackinac Island

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will rebury human remains found last week at a construction site on Mackinac Island.

Cecil Pavlot, Sr. handles repatriation for the tribe. 

He said the ceremony won’t be publicized to avoid it becoming a “three-ring circus.”

"Not to be secretive," said Pavot, "But to be respectful and not have a crowd standing around and watching."

Pavlot said it’s possible the remains could be European settlers.

But he thinks it’s much more likely they’re Native Americans, because of the way the bodies were buried.

There were no objects buried with the bodies, for example, and the bodies were placed in an east-west position, which is traditional for Anishinaabeg burials.

Pavlot said Mackinac Island is considering adopting a new ordinance that would require private property owners to report the discovery of Native American remains, and cooperate with the repatriation.

He said the ordinance would be a good idea, even though the owners of the site have been cooperative, halting construction activity while bones are dug out by hand.

Pavlot said a number of reporters called him apparently expecting a sensational story, pitting Native Americans against white people. 

He thinks they were a little disappointed to learn that everyone agrees repatriation is the right thing to do.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.