TORONTO – A Sarnia couple have been handed a $5,000 bill after unearthing the well-preserved skeleton of an aboriginal woman who may have died up to 400 years ago.
Ken Campbell and his wife Nicole Sauve found the skeleton two weeks ago while digging post holes in the backyard of their Sarnia home.
They originally thought the bones belonged to an animal but quickly changed their mind after digging further and finding a well preserved human skull.
They called police, who taped off the area and contacted forensic anthropologist Michael Spence.
In an e-mail to Global News, Spence said the remains appear to be that of a woman, between 25- and 30-years-old who lived in the area between 1600 and 1800 A.D.
Spence added that the condition of her teeth leads him to believe that she lived largely by hunting and gathering wild plants and not by agriculture.
She would have been an ancestor of the present-day Ojibwa people living in the same region.
The province’s Registrar of Cemeteries was contacted after it was determined the remains weren’t connected to a murder.
The registrar said that an archaeological assessment would have to be done on their yard – and that they would have to foot the bill.
Tracy MacCharles, the Minister of Consumer Services which oversees the registrar of cemeteries said in an interview that people who find remains on their property are responsible for the archeological assessment.
The registrar, however, has discretion to provide for some or all of the costs, if they would cause an undue financial hardship on the homeowners, MacCharles said.
The couple can apply to be reimbursed by the provincial government, but Sauze tells Global News they feel like they should have to pay at all.
“It’s almost like saying ‘do the right thing and get kicked in the butt,’” Sauve said.
Bob Bailey, the MPP for the area, is working on Sauve’s behalf to keep her from having to pay the bill.
He said it is “disconcerting for any family” that they would be billed.
Sauve said she has spoken to many people who, if faced with the prospect of a large bill, would simply discard of the bones.
While the possibility of a large bill looms after reporting newly discovered remains, MacCharles hopes the possible costs don’t deter people from reporting the remains.
She added that some “homework” before purchasing land may minimize the chances of finding human remains.
“When you are buying land, it is your responsibility to take on notifying authorities and to take on the archeological assessment,” MacCharles said. “Talking to people in the area, or talking to the municipality up front might avoid or minimize some of these situations.”
Since 2001, approximately 180 remains have been found in Ontario and dealt with by the Registrar of Cemeteries, according to MacCharles.
The remains have been re-interred at a nearby First Nations Reserve.