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DIA: Gastineau remains were misidentified

Posted: July 17, 2012 - 12:02am
Digging continues in the front of Gastineau Elementary School on Thursday in the area where a grave was found about three weeks ago during a remodeling project this summer. Other graves may be in the area.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Digging continues in the front of Gastineau Elementary School on Thursday in the area where a grave was found about three weeks ago during a remodeling project this summer. Other graves may be in the area.

A gravesite uncovered at Gastineau Community School last month identified as being that of a Chilkat man who died in 1927 actually belonged to an unidentified young woman, the tribal administrator of the Douglas Indian Association said Friday.

The City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Department and the Sealaska Corp. said last month that the remains discovered during construction outside the school June 21 belonged to Sam Goldstein of Klukwan. Chilkat representatives conducted a ceremony at the site the following day.

But the DIA’s Andrea Cadiente-Laiti told Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute, in an email last Thursday that the remains were those of a woman aged 20 to 25, according to an archeologist brought in by the CBJ “per DIA’s request.”

“It is probably impossible to determine whose the remains are,” said Cadiente-Laiti Friday. A fire in 1937 blazed through what was then the town of Douglas, she noted, destroying many of Douglas’ records.

Cadiente-Laiti said that the headstone discovered at the site last month was unrelated to the disinterred grave.

“The headstone could have been moved in many ways when the highway went in,” said Cadiente-Laiti, referring to the Douglas Highway that runs in front of the school. “We don’t know how it got there, but we do have some pretty reputable information with some individuals telling us … that was pretty inconclusive, because the headstone wasn’t anywhere near the grave that was discovered.”

Worl said Monday that Goldstein’s remains are still missing, as far as she is aware.

“Now we wonder, where is Mr. Goldstein? Because the headstone was discovered with his name and from that, you know, we were able to find out who he was and where he was from,” Worl said.

Cadiente-Laiti and Worl said the DIA had contacted the Klukwan Chilkat community to inform members of the misidentification.

“We did not want Chilkat tribal members and/or descendents of Sam Goldstein … to continue suffering regarding this erroneous belief,” Cadiente-Laiti wrote in her email to Worl last Thursday.

While Sealaska Heritage Institute worked with the city after the June 21 discovery of the remains, Worl said the DIA has taken the lead now.

“We have kind of turned everything over to the Douglas Indian Association, because they’re affiliated, culturally affiliated … and have responsibility for that area,” Worl explained.

Cadiente-Laiti said the DIA had not spoken to media earlier because its elders had wanted to proceed cautiously while gathering new information.

Several more “anomalies” were discovered at Gastineau by a ground-penetrating radar scan about three weeks ago, the Juneau Empire reported July 4.

Cadiente-Laiti said she had received no confirmation that the anomalies have been identified as bodies, but said, “Certainly there is belief in areas that they don’t intend to dig up that there are likely more graves.”

Worl said that she had seen the area and believes it is “definitely a burial site.”

Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle said Monday evening that he is aware of the finding and will provide a full update on Wednesday.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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