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PIECES OF THE PAST: S-curve dig unearths artifacts from area's 'first people'

Friday, December 3, 1999
By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood The Grand Rapids Press

Wearing a white plastic hardhat, Anna Detz watched Thursday as the history of her 
ancestors was unearthed at an archaeological dig under the U.S. 131 S-curve.

As archaeologists from the Jackson-based Commonwealth Cultural Resource Group Inc. 
carefully sifted soil, charting the location of every shard of ancient pottery and 
hand tool unearthed, Detz paid careful attention.

Detz has a two-fold interest in the artifacts: she is a member of the Turtle Clan of 
the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians and an archaeology student at Grand Valley 
State University.

"I think it's very exciting," Detz said. "It will help me with my future career."

Several items, believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old, have been recovered. 
The items are Anishnabeg artifacts, which means they are relics of what the Ottawa 
language calls "the first people," said Ari Adler, Department of Transportation 

One dig site is a 200-by-35-foot expanse underneath Parking Lot B of GVSU's Eberhard 
Center at West Fulton Street and Front Avenue. The second is a 100-by-35-foot section 
across from the parking lot on Front Avenue.

Small pieces of pottery, animal bones, fire cracked rocks, chipped stone tools and 
spear points used for hunting have been recovered, said Mike Hambacher, one of the 
Commonwealth field directors overseeing the dig.

"So far, the array of material we're getting is typical of village life," Hambacher 

In addition to the Anishnabeg artifacts, pieces of patterned ceramic from the late 
19th century or early 20th century were found.

Hambacher said the excavation will be completed later this month. The artifacts will 
then be taken back to their lab in Jackson to be cleaned and dated.

Security will be provided at the site to ensure it is not disturbed while the dig 
continues, Adler said.

While archaeologists and Native Americans have not always seen eye to eye, Anna Detz's 
mother, Sharron Detz, said the tribe is pleased that MDOT consulted the tribe about 
how to handle recovered artifacts.

The tribe has an agreement with the state that if any human remains are found, they 
will be turned over to the tribe for reburial, she said.

So far, no human remains have been found.

As far as the Grand River Bands of the Ottawa Indians is concerned, respect for their 
ancestors is the main issue, Detz said, explaining that tribe members consider the 
land sacred and don't want to see artifacts mishandled.

Sharron Detz said she is pleased her daughter will be able to bring an Native American 
perspective to the field.

"Now we'll have a voice at the table," Detz said.

Tribal chair Ron Yob said tribe members knew there was once a village on the land 
where the S-Curve now stands, and they are excited about the findings.

Out of respect for their ancestors, Yob said tribe members have visited the site and 
conducted a ceremony to "make peace with the spirit of the village."

Yob explained that tribal members believe they carry the same spirit.

"We came together to celebrate the life that was once here, and let them know that 
we're still alive ... and that the spirits are alive as long as we keep them alive," 
Yob said. "Our spirit is the same spirit. It doesn't die."
Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine 
of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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