Tribal burial ground found in New Milford
Published 8:11 pm, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Human bones found in a mostly forgotten burial ground on Fort Hill in New Milford will be reburied with a traditional Native American spirit ceremony.
The bones, believed to be from members of the Weantinogue Indian tribe, were discovered last fall when preliminary excavation began for an affordable housing complex.
"The bones were turned up by accident when bulldozers started excavation for the complex," said Michael John Cavallaro, vice chairman of the Conservation Commission. "State archeologist Nicholas Bellantoni was called in and surveyed the site."
The discovery was not made public until now to avoid having looters violate the area, said Mr. Bellantoni, who identified the bones as human remains.
Work on the housing complex stopped until spring so the burial ground could be searched thoroughly and with dignity, officials said.
Although bones were removed, no intact skeletons were found.
The site has been searched "as much as is practical," Mr. Cavallaro said.
The state archaeologist worked with the Native American Heritage Council and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation to preserve the Weantinogue remains.
A cultural resource map of the burial ground was prepared and offered to the New Milford Planning Commission last week to add to the 2010 Plan of Conservation and Development.
"Historically, the tribe the bones are from would be known as the Weantinogue Tribe," Mr. Bellantoni said. "They will be turned over to the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, who will hold a spirit ceremony and rebury them at the reservation in Kent."
Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky could not be reached for comment.
A monument will be constructed at the burial ground site on Fort Hill, designating the historical significance of the location, Mr. Bellantoni said.
The burial site was known in the 1880s, when a New Milford farmer first disturbed remains while plowing his field, Mr. Cavallaro said.
To protect the site from looting at that time, the farmer planted a grove of trees over it. In 1920, Yale University documented the site, but it was then forgotten in local history, Mr. Cavallaro said.