8,000-Year-Old Skull Unearthed In Minnesota River Causing Controversy

By Taylor Linzinmeir

May 24, 2022

Photo: Getty Images

When a partial skull was discovered last summer by two kayakers in Minnesota, Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable initially believed it might be related to a missing person or murder case. It wasn't until he turned the skull over to a medical examiner and eventually the FBI that a forensic anthropologist used carbon dating to determine the skull was likely that of a young man who lived between 5500 and 6000 B.C., according to Minnesota Public Radio.

"It was a complete shock to us that that bone was that old," Hable said. 

But the county's Facebook post that eagerly shared the discovery, which included a photo of the skull, drew criticism from Native Minnesotans. They believed their ancestral remains should not be shared online.

Minnesota Indian Affairs Council Cultural Resources Specialist Dylan Goetsch believes the post “showed a complete lack of cultural sensitivity” by not referencing the individual as Native American and referring to the remains as “a little piece of history.”

“We had no idea but we were alerted to the fact that that Facebook post was offensive to one or more people and so we have since taken that post down. We didn’t mean for it to be offensive whatsoever,” Hable said.

In addition, Goetsch said neither the council nor the state archaeologist were made aware of the discovery, which is required by law, and that Minnesota tribal communities learned of the discovery only after seeing the Facebook post.

Hable said his agency is turning over the remains to Upper Sioux Community tribal officials.

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