Editorial: Burrs Hill repatriation a long time coming

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Centuries after they buried their loved ones on a small hill overlooking what would become known as the Kickemuit River, Burr’s Hill stands today as not only a park and concert venue but, unknown to some, as a sacred space.

Just over 100 years ago amateur archaeologists descended on Burr’s Hill and dug up the remains of many of the area’s indigenous people, who had been buried 100, 200 and 300 years earlier. As interest in the site grew many local residents tore through graves and pulled out bottles, beads, funerary objects and other mementos, and many of them ended up on display at the George Hail Library and in private collections. Close to a decade ago many of those objects were “re-patriated” to the descendants of those natives. And now, many of the remains dug up long ago may soon return to their rightful place in the earth.

Town officials are planning to welcome a delegation of native tribes to Burr’s Hill, who plan on digging for and building a concrete bunker in which the remains of their ancestors will be re-interred.

In working with native groups over the past decade, town officials have had to work with diverse natives groups whose goals, claims and aims may not have always aligned. Now, they believe they are close to being able to pull a permit for the needed work and look forward to meeting with natives, hopefully this year, to allow them to honor and re-inter their dead.

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That day is long overdue. May the remains never move again.

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Honoré de Balzac

Read Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower"

It's possible that non-other than Massasoit himself may be buried somewhere on Burr's Hill

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.