The remains of two Shoshone teenagers have been laid to rest in northern Utah 150 years after they were believed to have been killed in the Bear River Massacre in Idaho.
They were among four sets of Shoshone remains buried Saturday at the Washakie Cemetery in Box Elder County during a traditional ceremony conducted by tribal members.
Two sets of the remains had recently been in possession of the Smithsonian Institution, another had been property of the federal government and the other was found years ago in Weber County, the Deseret News reports.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires the return of cultural artifacts, including human remains, to their rightful owners.
The remains of the Shoshone teens were found near the January 1863 battle site around today’s Preston, Idaho. Over 300 Shoshone were killed by the U.S. Army’s 3rd California Volunteers in the single greatest loss of Indian lives in American history.
All four sets of remains were wrapped in rabbit skin bags and laid in a 6-foot-deep trench. Prayer was offered and sage was lighted during the ceremony.
“It is to honor the old Indian custom and train of thought of returning them to their resting grounds,” said Darren Parry, vice chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation based in Brigham City.
He said the entire tribe subscribes to the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Parry credited their faith and tribal members’ 1873 Mormon conversion for the tribe’s survival, saying it helped them avoid placement on government reservations and other persecution.
The tribe has more than 500 members living in Box Elder, Weber and Davis counties, as well as portions of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming.
The newest grave sites at the Washakie Cemetery will remain unmarked to prohibit digging, tribal members said.