2014-06-14 / News

Native American Burial Mound in Ste. Anne’s Cemetery Has New Features


The Native American burial mound at Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery is flanked by a totem pole to the left and a large turtle carved in cedar to the right. The totem pole was installed last September and the turtle was installed in October. The Native American burial mound at Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery is flanked by a totem pole to the left and a large turtle carved in cedar to the right. The totem pole was installed last September and the turtle was installed in October. Visitors to Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery will find a wooden turtle carving and a restored totem pole flanking the Native American burial mound near the south entrance, The pieces were installed last year at the site, which is the final resting place for some of the Native Americans who were buried on Mackinac Island and Bois Blanc Island years ago, and whose remains were disturbed in subsequent development.

“The turtle is significant because that’s what we call this place we live, Turtle Island,” said Cecil Pavlat, repatriation specialist with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “It’s symbolic of Mother Earth and the shape of the burial mound.”


Don “The Duck” Andress stands by the newest addition to the Native American burial site in Ste. Anne’s Cemetery Tuesday, May 27, after repairing a totem pole he refurbished last year. The new large wooden turtle was made by Cecil Pavlat, repatriation specialist with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and finished by Mr. Andress on the Island. Don “The Duck” Andress stands by the newest addition to the Native American burial site in Ste. Anne’s Cemetery Tuesday, May 27, after repairing a totem pole he refurbished last year. The new large wooden turtle was made by Cecil Pavlat, repatriation specialist with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and finished by Mr. Andress on the Island. Last year, Mr. Pavlat created the turtle from native cedar and shipped it to Mackinac Island. Once there, Don “The Duck” Andress of the Mackinac Bands provided the finishing touches to the piece, routing the shell design and coating it with varnish.

Above the turtle, a sign reads, “Jiibay Gitigaan” in Ojibwa, which means “Spirit Garden, or where we bury our spirits,” Mr. Pavlat said.

Mr. Andress also restored a totem pole that was donated to the site. The totem pole was installed last September and survived the hard winter fairly well, except for a small piece that came off near the bottom, which he fixed last month.

The burial site in Ste. Anne’s Cemetery was created in 2012 after construction downtown unearthed remnants from an old cemetery in late 2011. The fill containing the remains and the spirits of these people was used to the turtle-shaped mound.

Mr. Pavlat describes repatriation as the “respectful and appropriate handling of ancestral remains.” Instead of viewing remains as artifacts, it’s important to recognize remains as family members, he continued. “That human connection is what people understand.”

The Sault Tribe donated $2,000 to the city for materials, and volunteers like Mr. Andress completed the finishing touches on the Island. The city maintenance crew helped install the wooden features.

Other things still need to be added to the burial mound, including topsoil to help slow erosion. Mr. Pavlat also hopes to install signs and other educational features, explaining the burial mound and importance of repatriation. He also would like to host a memorial service soon, but financial constraints limit the work that can be done.

The tribe is seeking donations to help continue these efforts, and those interesting in contributing financially can contact Mr. Pavlat at (906) 440-7849 or cpavlat@saulttribe.net.

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