In May 2008, archaeologists began exhuming the remains of American Indians at a remote site south of Lake Okeechobee and reburying them elsewhere to make way for a man-made wetland to help restore the Everglades.
The Miccosukee and Seminole tribes signed off on the project after being told that the archaeologists would carefully and respectfully re-inter the miscellaneous collection of bones and teeth that had been found.
But more bodies were found, and after nearly two years, the tribes learned that what they had been told were just some teeth and bones turned out to be the remains of 56 men, women and children. The press states that the remains were moved from an ancient burial ground that is so significant it would have been eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Seminoles are angry. “We’re not OK with relocating a burial ground,” said Tina Osceola, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Historic Resources Officer. “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 controversy is a nightmare for the South Florida Water Management District, the agency responsible for the Everglades Restoration. The agency has stopped construction near the four burial sites, delaying the project.
The controversy has further strained relations and eroded trust between the tribe and the agencies involved in restoring the Everglades.