- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - Human remains found at Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau may be those of a Native American buried long ago.

Capt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Department told the Southeast Missourian (http://bit.ly/1j5b39i ) the remains could be part of a Native American group called the Wolf People. Park and state officials declined comment.

James says a family was visiting the park about two weeks ago when one of the children found what appeared to be a jaw bone among leaves near a bench. That led to an investigation in which other bones were found.

The trail at the park is closed, but state officials are not saying if the closure is to determine whether the remains are part of a larger burial ground.

A state statute governing the discovery of unmarked human remains indicates that when an unmarked human burial or human skeletal remains are reported, efforts must be made to identify the remains, notify descendants or find out whether the remains are part of a particular ethnic group. That group would determine disposition of the remains.

Meanwhile, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act protects the rights of tribes when physical and cultural remains are found.

Trail of Tears State Park includes a visitor’s center that recounts how Cherokee groups being relocated to Oklahoma crossed the Mississippi River during the harsh winter of 1838 and 1839, with thousands dying during the march.

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com

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