27 bodies uncovered at possible US massacre grave site

·2-min read

The record books could be rewritten when it comes to one of the darkest chapters in US history

Crews have begun excavating remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims, removing them from a cemetery where searchers so far have found 27 bodies. 

Oklahoma State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck is involved in the effort, as authorities search for unaccounted remains from the 1921 tragedy. 

"Today we have actually commenced with the process of excavating four individual burials," she said. 

The 1921 massacre occurred when a white mob descended on the Black section of Tulsa — Greenwood — and burned more than 1,000 homes, looted hundreds of others and destroyed its thriving business district. Most historians who have studied the event estimate the death toll to be between 75 and 300.

Last week, Joe Biden became the first sitting US president to visit the site in Tulsa, Oklahoma, marking the hundred year anniversary of the tragedy.

Workers excavating remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims at Oaklawn Cemetery on Tuesday (local time). Source: AP
Workers excavating remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims at Oaklawn Cemetery on Tuesday (local time). Source: AP

The remains that have been found will be transferred for examinations led by forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield.

"I foresee going forward with skeletal analysis beginning Wednesday (local time)," she said. 

Both Ms Stackelbeck and Tulsa Mass Graves Investigation Public Oversight Committee Chairman, Kavin Ross, said it’s possible the remains are from people who died from other things, such as the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed an estimated 7,350 in Oklahoma in 1918 and 1919.

Ms Stackelbeck said the number of remains found in Oaklawn Cemetery now stands at 27, up from 20 discovered as of last week, and that all have been found in coffins.

The search began last year, and researchers in October found at least 12 sets of remains, although the remains were covered back up at that time for further study.

Ms Stackelbeck has estimated more than 30 bodies could be in the site. Searches of two other sites are planned.

The US isn't the only North American country grappling with its brutal past. Last month the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of what was once Canada's largest Indigenous residential school. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was a "painful reminder" of a "shameful chapter of our country's history".

with AP

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