Human remains await analysis for almost 20 years

SAIPAN, 31 JULY 2017 (SAIPAN TRIBUNE) — Hundreds of boxes of human remains excavated from a Garapan site many years ago and stashed in the storage area of the Northern Marianas Museum and have been languishing there for nearly 20 years.

These human remains are kept in boxes since 1998 and are still awaiting analysis.


Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter, who was the former executive director of the museum, disclosed that the remains were dug up from the area that is now the Imperial Pacific Resort and Casino. The remains were excavated years before the building of the casino, during the time when a Japanese hotel was in the works in the area.

During the project, which was called the Nakamoto Project, the archaeological team of Swift Harper Archaeological Resource Consulting was hired for the archaeological excavation of the project. They were obligated to send the remains to Hawaii for analysis, but the analysis was never conducted because the Nakamoto Project was not completed due to the lack of funding.

According to Hunter, in the first year he was director of the museum in 2012, he was not aware of the background of the remains and how many of the remains the museum had.

Hunter said that around 2012 or 2013, he received a phone call from SHARC employees asking him if it was possible for the museum to store a couple of human remains in the museum’s storage and he complied. Hunter said that when the remains arrived at the museum, it was in about four different containers and all the boxes inside the containers remained unopened.

In 2015, Imperial Pacific decided to take over the area to build its resort casino. A debate soon sprung up whether Imperial Pacific was to inherit the responsibility for the archaeological artefacts that were found before their project or not.

Imperial Pacific soon won the debate and they were allowed to hire a new archaeological team to handle the project instead of SHARC, leaving the previous remains unanalysed. According to Hunter, the remains excavated by Imperial Pacific’s archaeological team have long been analysed and properly re-interred.

Until today, the museum still holds over 200 human remains. The remains have been there for almost 20 years and Hunter believes that is far too long.

Hunter has now taken it into his own hands to find a way to get the remains analysed and properly re-interred.

He is currently working on requesting a budget from the Commonwealth government. The funding will give the department the capability to get the remains analysed and re-interred.

According to Hunter it won’t be that easy because it would take thousands of dollars to get the remains analysed, especially because of the quantity.

Hunter believes that most of the remains are indigenous Chamorro or Carolinians because of how deep they were buried. If it is discovered that some are of Japanese or American heritage, the remains will be returned to their respective origins…. PACNEWS [/restrict]