Thomas Doty – Storyteller

A Native View

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A Tale of Two Cemeteries

I contemplate the sacredness of the graves of our ancestors.

In 1930, archaeologist Luther Cressman dug the graveyard at the native village of Ti'lomikh along the Rogue River. To locate the burials, he plowed the meadow. Each time he heard a clink, he dug up the bones. To help finance his dig, Cressman charged admission to watch the "Indian Tombs" being unearthed. The bones were then removed and stored in a museum 200 miles away.

In contrast, a few years later and just a few miles away, descendants of pioneer families were concerned about the safety of their ancestors' graves. The artillery range for Camp White, built at the beginning of World War II, was near Antioch Cemetery where an errant shell might damage or destroy the graves. My own great-great grandparents are buried there. The government arranged for the gravestones to be carefully laid flat, and then covered the entire cemetery with several feet of dirt and sand. Ah, the irony of burying a cemetery! Following the end of the war, the dirt and sand were removed, gravestones righted, and native grasses replanted.

Meanwhile, the bones of the Old Ones dug up in 1930 have yet to come home to Ti'lomikh.