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Human remains found in Ottertail along bike trail

The Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office has taped off the portion of the Ottertail bike path where human remains were recently unearthed from a Native American burial mound. Archeologists from Hamline University have excavated the remains and will be returning to the area again to finish identifying them.Connie Vandermay / Forum Communications

Work on a section of a bike path here has been delayed due to the discovery of human remains at a Native American burial mound off of Highway 108.

The grave is estimated to date back to the 1800s.

"On Friday, Sept. 21, they came around the corner, and the skid steer operator noticed a bone coming out of the ground," said Chris McConn of Interstate Engineering.

McConn updated the City Council on the project at a meeting last week.

The bike path passes over a portion of the burial mound where the remains were uncovered. The plan is to restore these bones to a gravesite to the satisfaction of the Indian nations to which they belong.

Hamline University archaeology students and professors were recently at the site to excavate the remains. They are believed to be Ojibwe bones, but McConn reported that there may also be Dakota bones in the same mound.

"They now want to go through the topsoil on the hill to look for Dakota burial remains," he added.

In an email to the council, an archaeology professor involved with the project stated that Hamline University is unable to proceed with the work unless they receive confirmation that the city will pay for it.

The first trip, involving two professors and five archaeology students, totaled $1,943.

Two professors and 12 students plan to visit a second time to hunt for any additional human remains. That trip is estimated to cost $9,500.

The council passed a motion for the city to pay for that work, for now.

Jim Jones, cultural resource director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, planned to meet with council members last week to discuss how the remains will be handled.

Until the excavation of the area is complete, the construction crew is not allowed to work on that section of the bike path. The goal is to still complete the path this fall.

Native American burial mounds are known to be fairly common in the Ottertail area.

Heidi Kratzke writes for the East Otter Tail Focus