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Outrage Over Removal of Indian Remains Halts Everglades Restoration

It was one thing to agree to an exhumation and removal of Native American remains -- mostly bits of teeth and bones. They were supposed to be relocated respectfully, in all dignity, in a site safely away from the Everglades restoration works, south of Lake Okeechobee.

That was according to an agreement made in 2008 between the government and the Miccousukee and Seminole tribes.

Now, two years later, the excavation of teeth and bones has turned into a revelation: the discovery of the partial remains of 56 men, women and children. And here's the rub: Had the tribes known how significant a find it was, they could have made certain the site was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The Seminoles are unhappy, to say the least. They believe archeologists -- whose job it is to protect ancient history -- should have notified the tribes what they were finding. According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, "now the Seminoles want all 901 bones and 245 teeth returned to their original resting place."

The Post reporter quoted Tina Osceola, the Seminole Tribe of Florida's historic resources officer: "We're not OK with relocating a burial ground. You're talking about too many individuals and that disturbs the balance between our ancestors and those who are walking today. We want them put back."

The nightmare deepens for the South Florida Water Management District, the agency responsible for restoring the Everglades. Construction near the four burial sites has ground to a halt at just the wrong time, when two already skeptical federal judges have ordered the district to move on the cleanup pronto.

Stay tuned.

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