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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The remains of 11 Native Americans, including two sets that were housed at the University of Nebraska State Museum, will be buried in a Michigan cemetery later this week.

A ceremony will be Friday for the burial of the remains at the Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery on the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe reservation, which is near Mount Pleasant.

"It's always an honor and a privilege to take care of our ancestors," Charmaine Shawana, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Council, told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant. "I have been taught these very well may be your own relations."

William Johnson, curator at the Mount Pleasant-based Ziibiwing Center for Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, told MLive.com the remains in Nebraska were unearthed from a site in the Midland, Mich., area in 1883 and were transferred to the museum.

The remains of the other nine people were discovered during a 2012 Michigan highway project, and have since been kept in Lansing.

Johnson said the repatriation will bring "decency and dignity" to the tribal communities. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance have submitted requests to retrieve the remains of more than 2,200 individuals nationwide.

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"We will continue to support other tribes in their repatriation efforts as well," Johnson said. "The commitment to our relatives will never waiver."

The remains found in 2012 were near Oscoda in Iosco County. The Michigan Department of Transportation's archaeological staff and consultants concluded that the remains were of Native American ancestry, and dated to the 1820s to the 1850s.

A total of 202 funerary objects also were recovered.

"They deserve the respect that any human being when they pass into the spirit world," Shawana said. "They have been disturbed and need to be put back into the womb of our Mother Earth in a proper and respectful way."

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

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I'm a Journal Star night editor and father of five.

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