Preserving our past Fort Hill burial grounds are treated with proper respect
Fort Hill burial grounds are treated with proper respect
The discovery of human bones buried long ago at Fort Hill in New Milford was handled appropriately and with sensitivity by those involved.
The remains are believed to be from the Weantinogues, a native American tribe that had once populated the area.
Excavation for affordable housing to be built on the site was halted immediately after a bulldozer uncovered the bones, and the state archeologist, Nicholas Bellantoni, was summoned.
Mr. Bellantoni identified the bones as human and surveyed the site while the project was put on hold for several months. All of this was done quietly so the site would not be put at risk of possible looting.
While we always favor full public disclosure, the intentions were well placed for keeping the discovery secret until the remains could be documented and removed.
Mr. Bellantoni worked with the Native American Heritage Council and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Kent to preserve the Weantinogue remains.
The bones will be reburied on Schaghticoke land in Kent with a traditional Native American spirit ceremony, as is proper.
A long ago native American presence in New Milford had been known, but the exact location of this burial site -- though documented in a 1920 study by Yale University -- had been forgotten in modern times.
Recently, Mr. Bellantoni's office gave the town a cultural resource map of the Fort Hill site for inclusion in the Plan of Conservation and Development. The fact the land had once been a sacred burying site for the Weantinogues need not be forgotten again.
The discovery and resolution were treated with sensitivity. Now construction of the affordable housing -- which is much needed in New Milford -- will resume.
Yet the rediscovered burial ground of the Weantinogues serves as a poignant reminder that we share the earth with those who have come before.