Jane, Mo. A security company was hired to protect a highway construction site in southwest Missouri after construction crews uncovered American Indian remains along U.S. Highway 71, said Kent Boyd, a state highway department spokesman.
The step was taken as a precaution because the burial site is about 25 feet from the highway, Boyd said.
The discovery, however, has not delayed efforts to expand the two-lane highway to four lanes from the Arkansas border north to Pineville, Boyd said. The project was expected to be completed by the end of 2005.
Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration was working to reach an agreement with the Osage and Caddo tribes on how to proceed with reburial of the remains.
"We need to work with the tribes and give them time to come up with their recommendations and concerns," said Bob Reeder, cultural resources coordinator for Missouri Department of Transportation in Jefferson City.
A member of the Caddo Tribe said the delay could have been avoided had the Federal Highway Administration informed the tribes of the project. Because the agency provides federal funds for highway projects such as U.S. 71, it is required to tell tribes of such work while it is in its planning stages.
"They didn't do that," said Bobby Gonzalez, who coordinates the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act for the tribe's headquarters in Binger, Okla. "The federal agency did not consult early on in the planning process. They did not identify the tribes with an interest in those historical properties."
Peggy Casey, Federal Highway Administration environmental projects engineer, said that was because the department was not aware the Caddo Tribe had inhabited the area.
In 1999, regulations were tightened on notifying American Indian tribes about road-building projects, she said.
At a meeting last week, it was agreed the Caddo and Osage tribes will receive reports on the archaeology work on a site which may have been inhabited by the Neosho Tribe, Casey said.
Archaeologists consider the Neoshos ancestors of the Caddo and Osage tribes.
The discovery of human bones was a surprise, Reeder said. The site was reburied after the remains were found.