OPINION | Regarding the reburial of human remains from the Best Sunshine hotel property

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TO Mrs. Rita Chong-Dela Cruz,  state historic preservation officer, Historic  Preservation   Office:

Thank you for offering Swift and Harper Archaeological Resource Consulting or SHARC the opportunity to oversee the reburial of the Best Sunshine prehistoric burials. In considering your kind offer, we find ourselves in an interesting and conflicted situation.   As you recall, we excavated within what was to become the Best Sunshine property for Mr. Nakamoto in the late 1990's.  This property was intensively investigated by our firm between the years 1996 and 1999 (Swift et al. 1996 a and b,  1997, 1998 a and b, and 1999).  During our investigations, approximately  95% of the proposed (at that time) hotel was cleared of archaeological materials. A total of 260 human remains and 53 archaeological features were treated according to HPO stipulations. The large number of burials and former intact deposits at this site contribute to make this one of the most significant archaeological sites in the CNMI. The condition of the burials and the recovery of a larger than usual amount of slingstones suggests that the village may have been occupied prior to and during the time of the Spanish-Chamorro wars, circa AD 1684. Poignant discoveries included a high number of child burials. A probable  cause for the high rate of child mortality may have been contagious diseases. In the historic records, these are referred to as ship's  sickness (alluding to disease spread by the Spanish galleons). These lines of evidence suggest that the time frame extends earlier for site occupation. To determine the exact dates, it will be necessary to obtain specific dates through radiocarbon dating. Site SP-1-0762  continues to provide a unique and significant glimpse into the past life ways of the Chamorro people.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nakamoto was unable to secure investors for his project and he was forced to abandon the island and his responsibilities for the archaeological investigation.  SHARC was able to secure the funding that covered the field work only.  Funding for the laboratory analyses of the artifacts, specialist's  costs (i.e., osteological, radiocarbon, wood identification, faunal, etc.) as well as all reports was not provided to our firm.  In the 21 years that have elapsed since Mr. Nakamoto abandoned the project, we have met with your office (before your tenure) numerous times when potential investors or local projects were proposed for this project area.  In all of these meetings your office stated that the first condition for any developer would be to have the previous archaeological materials (i.e.,  human remains, artifacts, and botanical and other samples) analyzed. In addition, the drafting of maps and all reporting would be the responsibility of the new developer. Although costly, the benefit to the developer would be access to cleared areas without any cultural findings.   With this assurance by your office, SHARC stored all of the artifacts, samples, and a portion  of the human  remains  in our lab which  we had rented  at our expense  until  last year.   After that time, the burials  and artifacts  have been stored at your office near the airport.   To date,  with this new  project   now  completed    by  Best  Sunshine,   we  have  neither   been  consulted   by  your  office concerning  this outstanding  condition  to treat the previous  archaeological   work for the history  of our island   nor any mention  of the debt owed to our company.

In this regard,  we have no problem  with the reburial  of the Best Sunshine  burials.  We assume that  the  required   excavations    and  reporting   are  completed   for  these  remains.     Concerning   the Nakamoto burials, WE DO NOT AGREE TO THE REBURIAL OF THESE REMAINS UNTIL ALL ANALYSES AND REPORTING HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED.  Furthermore, we request that the "Community Chest" fund placed by Best Sunshine be used to enable us to complete the necessary analyses and reporting for the Nakamoto human remains and features.  This is only right that Best Sunshine, which benefitted greatly from our work at the hotel site, pay for the necessary work to bring the story of the Anaguan site to the people of the CNMI.  Please let these ancestral remains tell their story of this important  prehistoric village in the heart of Saipan.

Given these factors, we are unable to participate in the reburial of the Nakamoto remains. We do appreciate you requesting our services and look to the good guidance of your office to help us secure the necessary funding to complete our most important study.

Thank you!

 

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