2018-04-07 / News

Agreement Made for Turtle Burial Mound

By Jacob A. Ball

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has formally agreed to share in the maintenance and care for the Turtle Burial Mound at Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery. The tribe has been involved in the mound since it was created in 2012, after construction downtown unearthed human remains from a long-ago Native American burial ground in late 2011. Earth containing the remains was moved and used to create the turtle-shaped mound.

The City of Mackinac Island has been performing the necessary care for the mound, including cutting grass and repainting signs. The tribe will now donate $1,872 to the city to support caring for the burial site. The tribe previously donated $3,000 to the city for the upkeep of the mound.

This area is the ancestral home of the Anishnaabek nation, and the agreement signifies the importance of the mound and of Mackinac Island to the local Native American community. Through the agreement, the city and the tribe have agreed to “work cooperatively to care for, maintain, and uphold the integrity of the Turtle Burial Mound.”

The city Cemetery Board reviewed the agreement and recommended it to city council Wednesday, March 28. City foreman Mike Ruddle said some snowmobiles had been ridden across the mound this winter and that he will install a plastic snow fence around it in the future. Board members were disappointed that the snowmobilers didn’t respect the mound. City Clerk Danielle Wightman said the totem pole and signage should remain during the winter so visiting snowmobile riders will be aware of its significance.

Mackinac Island American Legion Post 299 commander Sid DeHaan suggested expanding the wreath laying ceremony performed last December at Post Cemetery. He received approval to raise funds for wreaths to be laid on the graves of every U.S. military veteran buried at the Island’s cemeteries. He estimates there are roughly 210 veterans buried in the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries.

Mr. DeHaan wanted approval before summertime, so that he can begin raising money for the wreaths. The cost is about $15 per wreath for a total of roughly $3,150. He said it is a nice ceremony and a good way to honor Mackinac Island’s veterans. He will organize cleanup of the wreaths next January. Board Chair Kathi Wightman was concerned about the costs, but Mr. DeHaan is confident the city will not need to pay for anything.

Paul Wandrie has been given permission to proceed with acquiring two military headstones for the graves of War of 1812 veteran Henry Villencourt and his son, Henry Jr., who served in the U.S. Civil War. The son went missing-in-action during the Civil War and a memorial stone will be erected in his honor. The father’s remains are believed to be in Ste. Anne’s Cemetery, but cannot be precisely located. Mr. Wandrie said there is a plot for the Villencourt/ Vallencourt family where the new headstones will be placed. Both monuments will be provided without charge to the community by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Wandrie is compiling military service records and other identifying information to be sent to the VA, which will verify the documentation and create the markers.

There is some debate over the family name. Mr. Wandrie said there was no consistency with spelling at the time, and it is unlikely that a definitive answer can be found. Of more concern to him is to ensure that there is consistency between the Civil War Memorial downtown and the gravestones in the cemeteries. The memorial lists the name Henry Villencourt, so Mr. Wandrie would like to see that spelling in the cemetery.

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