Thayer Warm Fork Indian Bones

Talk given by Dave Bailey narrated by Jenny Underwood

Presented to the Oregon County History Club which meets the second Friday of each month at Country Cottage Restaurant at noon.

On July 28, 2008, my first day on the job as Police Chief in Thayer, MO., we got a call that some bones were discovered on Warm Fork River by canoers. They had seen something shiny along the bank, paddled over, and discovered it was a human skull. We didn’t know if it was a site of a murder or what we were dealing with. We investigated it and saw several very old bones. We contacted archeologists, the DNR, Indian tribes and anybody we could to find out what they were. At first the news reported that they were bones from the Civil War because a musket ball was found.

After we were given permission, we excavated the bones by following procedures used for archeology digs and to show respect for the burials. They researched the site and excavated all visible bones representing six Native Americans.

We had visits from three separate archaeologists who said the bones were pre-historic Native American bones from 1500 to 2000 years old. We sent information to several tribes to see which tribe had a claim on the bones. The Osage claimed the bones. They are now in the process of getting permission to conduct a private burial service in the same area.

The City of Thayer had offered space in the town cemetery but the Osage tribe spokesperson declined and said they should be buried near where they were found or in a burial site of their choice. The City officials were complemented by the tribes for showing such interest and concern for the bones and their eventual placement. The local residents wanted to keep those bones where they were found.

The Osage Indians were very tall, the men usually over six feet, and the bones were consistent. One set of bones was of a child. The bones were not spread out as if in a cemetery but were piled into the same area. The Osage would come to this area to hunt, grow and harvest crops, and return to their main villages when winter came. They were known as fighters but when they fought, they did so on foot without horses.  From local stories, the two tribes that inhabited the area were the Shawnee and the Osage.

The area where the bones were found is gradually eroding by the Warm Fork River. Attempts were made to get the DNR or some other agency to build a barrier but it was denied. Now we are awaiting decisions by the Osage Nation to determine the final resting place for the bones.


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