Blessing ceremony held for Gastineau remains

The Douglas Indian Association yesterday (Tuesday) held a blessing ceremony at Gastineau Community School for human remains found during a renovation project.

Last month, the City and Borough of Juneau halted construction after workers digging in front of the building unearthed remains and a headstone for Sam Goldstein, a Chilkat man from Klukwan who died in 1927.

It turns out the remains did not belong to Goldstein, whose body is still missing. At the request of Douglas Indian Association officials, the city brought in archeologists from Northern Land Use Research in Fairbanks. They correctly identified the remains found near Goldstein’s headstone as those of a young woman in her early to mid-20s.

Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle says they also used ground-penetrating radar to scan the construction area.

“They were able to identify six probable sites for graves, and four possible sites, as well as a number of other sites where they just couldn’t tell what was going on, but they thought they were unlikely to be graves,” Steedle says.

He confirms additional human remains were found, but declined to give an exact number. He says Anthropologist Joel Irish with University of Alaska Fairbanks was brought in last Wednesday.

“He helped complete the uninterment of these individuals, identify them to the best of his ability as to sex and age, and then on Friday we re-interred these individuals at the school site in an area that won’t be disturbed,” says Steedle.

He says construction will resume at the school this week, and the city is reasonably confident no other burial sites will be disturbed. He also says the city will work with Douglas Indian Association to investigate how the sites went unnoticed for several decades. Gastineau Community School was built in 1957.

“The records are scant, but we will be doing research to understand just what was visible on that site in the late 1950s when Gastineau School was built,” Steedle says.

Members of the Juneau Assembly and School Board attended Tuesday’s blessing ceremony as guests of Douglas Indian Association. But Steedle says DIA officials requested that it not be noticed to the public in order to keep the gathering small and private.

Douglas Indian Association officials could not be reached for comment before news time.

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