DNR Investigates Skull Discovery

By: Sarah Platt Email
By: Sarah Platt Email

It's likely the last thing you'd think to find when doing some yard work. A human skull that is; but, that's exactly what a LaGrange County couple discovered earlier this week. Foul play was quickly ruled out, and today, an archaeologist was taking a look at the grounds. Dr. Rick Jones says the remains could literally date back thousands of years.

At first, the skull gave the Nelson family of Shipshewana quite a scare, but now they say the find is turning out to be a bit of history lesson.

Wednesday, DNR officials took a closer look at the Nelsons’ land. “This is a preliminary look at the area and we'll decide if we need to do further work," says Jones. He says the skull found in the Nelsons’ backyard could be that of a Native American. "From the dentation, might be from Woodlands time period, which goes back 3 or 4-thousand years. I think it's likely from the last 1 to 2-thousand years."

DNR officials wouldn't let us take pictures of the skull, respecting the wishes of the local tribes. "We try to respect that number one, the human that was buried here perhaps thousands of years ago; and two, for respect of the ancestors," adds Jones.

Max Nelson hopes more remains might be found, so they can be turned over to the local tribe. "He's found some arrowheads on the creek there, didn't think too much of it until he found this and we started thinking," says Rosetta Nelson, Max’s wife. Nelson says the discovery has struck a chord with her, she's part Cherokee.

Until the DNR wraps up its’ investigation of the remains the Nelsons have been advised to keep their yard undisturbed, so that means construction on the driveway is on hold for now. "Whatever we can do to help them out, more than wiling to do it, “ says Nelson.

Newscenter 16 spoke with Daniel Rapp. He's with the Pokagan Band of the Potawatomi Indians. He's the tribes’ Chairperson of the Tradition and Repatriation Committee. The group oversees ceremonies like reburials. Rapp says the tribe would like to see the remains reburied, and not go on display.

If people do find something like this in their yards, Indiana law requires landowners to call law enforcement or the DNR.

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