Remains Linked to Massacre Found in Nephi

Remains Linked to Massacre Found in Nephi

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Digging in a ravine, a home builder discovered the remains of seven American Indians believed to have been killed in 1853 during a conflict with Mormon pioneers.

A scientist described the discovery in Nephi, 85 miles south of Salt Lake City, as extremely important.

"These people have an important story to tell," assistant state archaeologist Ronald Rood said.

The bodies, discovered in August, were on top of each other in a grave just 3 feet wide, The Salt Lake Tribune reported in Friday editions.

Bones were splintered by bullets that hit some victims in the head and others in the leg. Archaeologists found buttons attached to cloth, glass shards and a copper tube that contained what appeared to be hair.

What led to their deaths? There are two accounts.

In one version, the Indians were killed in retaliation for the deaths of four men who were traveling to Salt Lake City from Manti with wheat, according to Springville historian D. Robert Carter.

Another account suggests the Indians were summoned to town by military commander Maj. George W. Bradley and refused to drop their weapons. One settler was struck with an arrow, and the seven Indians were killed.

The killings were part of the Walker War, a larger conflict between Mormon pioneers and Indians. A peace agreement was reached in May 1854.

Rood said evidence suggests the seven men, ages 16 to 25, were killed and thrown in a mass grave.

The archaeologist found a ball of lead inside one man's skull. A head fracture stained green by a copper trinket suggests one Indian was killed with blunt trauma.

"I don't see it as revising history," Rood said. "I see it as adding another chapter."

The fate of the seven skeletons is uncertain, he said.

Utah law allows Indian tribes to make claims on their ancestors' bodies only if they are unearthed on public land. There is no provision for bones found on private land.

Unless a family link is found, the state retains custody. Forrest Cuch, the executive director of the state Division of Indian Affairs, said he'll ask for change in state law.

"I am an Indian and was raised to have respect for the dead and to understand that there are certain physical laws and spiritual laws," Cuch said. "I don't think we have been honoring the spiritual laws."

Kevin Creps, who found the Indians' remains while preparing a foundation for his home, said he wants to see a "proper burial."


Information from The Salt Lake Tribune:

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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