Effort to recover Native American remains continues near Skywalk

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Archaeologists continue working to recover human skeletal remains disturbed by a paving project on a dirt road that leads to the Skywalk at the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon West tourist attraction in northwest Arizona.

Work on Diamond Bar Road came to a halt June 17 when a road grader unearthed the remains, thought to be Native American and Hualapai tribal ancestors.

“To date there’s been three graves found in that area,” said Ruben Sanchez, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Kingman office. “There are certain items that are buried with the individuals that help us confirm that they are Native American.”

Dave Cieslak, a spokesman for the Hualapai Tribe, said it is believed the remains are those of a tribal family that inhabited the area more than 300 years ago. He said a spiritual cleansing ceremony has been performed.

“The remains have been blessed by a tribal religious leader. That same religious leader also did a blessing ceremony over the worker who uncovered them,” Cieslak said. “They will be reburied in the same general area.”

Sanchez said personnel from the BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the tribe have been involved in the delicate effort to determine the size and scope of the burial site.

“You have to be very careful, very cautious because sometimes the graves are more shallow or deeper,” Sanchez said. “We’re talking about graves that are very old and the landscape has changed so something that may have been buried 5 feet (deep) may now be more shallow because of wind erosion or water erosion in the area.”

Sanchez said that all possible steps have been taken to respect cultural and historical interests and the sensitivity of the mission.

Cieslak said crews on site don’t expect to recover additional remains and believe their recovery effort will be completed late this week.