Caddo Nation come for remains of their ancestors

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Caddo elders sing and speak of Caddo history for fourth graders at TJR Elementary, but their visit to East Texas is two-fold. They are mainly here to reclaim what was taken from ancient Indian burial grounds on and near the historic school campus. Caddo coordinator of the federal law allowing this, Bobby Gonzalez explained,  " Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act allows the tribe whose indigenous or historically from an area that if they have human remains or funeral objects or sacred objects of objects of culture patriation they can repatriate those, in other words, the tribe can bring those home. "

Three sets of human remains and about sixty pottery vessels are in the Stephen F Austin State University Repository. They were excavated from the Caddo Mounds in the 70's. The laws have changed, so has the science. Stephen F. Austin State University Department of Sociology Chair, Dr. Jerry Williams said,  " While {the law} it doesn't forbid excavation of burials in the practical sense it means it won't be excavated, especially if those burials are on state or government land. "

The Caddo tribe once numbered in the tens of thousands across the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Today there are about 5,000 members. Their ancestors farmed, growing corn and vegetables to stay alive. The land and its provisions were sacred, so it's a fitting tribute to their ancestors to want to return them to Earth.  Some historians regret such beautiful craftsmanship can be buried from view. Some Native Americans, including Gonzalez have a different perspective.  " We can't repeat what our ancestors done. Those ceremonies have already been done. All we can do is ask for blessings and forgiveness and put them away with respect and go on. "

The Caddo Council hasn't made a final decision if they'll claim the remains or where they'll go, but tribal members made to Mound Street, named for the Indian burial mounds that lined the street in the 18th century. A homeowner now has the last remaining mound in his front yard.

You can learn more about the sacred vessels at the mission Dolores visitors center in San Augustine. An exhibit on the Caddo culture opened today. Also a book on the Caddo nation's perspective on the vessels is in the publishing stages at SFA. You can also view photographs of the vessels found on the Washington Square site at Search Stone Fort Museum and narrow search to pots.