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Hurricane Nicole unearths possible Native American burial ground on Chastain Beach

Skull, bones believed to be more than 200 years old discovered
Posted at 1:34 PM, Nov 10, 2022

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — It appears Hurricane Nicole has unearthed a grisly discovery in Martin County.

Martin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Budensiek told WPTV on Thursday afternoon that crime scene technicians were investigating what's believed to be a Native American burial ground on Chastain Beach on South Hutchinson Island.

He said strong winds from Nicole, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane just south of Vero Beach early Thursday, churned up the sand and unearthed the remains of at least six bodies.

A photo from the Martin County Sheriff's Office showed a decomposing skull emerging from the sand.

Hurricane Nicole unearthed what's believed to be a Native American burial ground on Chastain Beach on South Hutchinson Island, Nov. 10, 2022
Hurricane Nicole unearthed what's believed to be a Native American burial ground on Chastain Beach on Chastain Beach, Nov. 10, 2022.

"I just found a bone laying around, washed up," a beachgoer told WPTV's Matt Sczesny.

Chief Deputy John Budensiek said beachgoers came upon "an old human skull and then some arm and leg bones."

Deputies didn't disturb the site, identifying it as a federally protected Native American burial site.

Budensiek said detectives took photographs of the bones for the medical examiner's office to review.

FWC officer stands watch over Native American burial ground on Chastain Beach
A Florida wildlife officer looks out into the ocean near where an ancient Native American burial ground was discovered on Chastain Beach after Hurricane Nicole, Nov. 10, 2022.

"They are able to tell us that the bones appear to be over 200 years old," Budensiek said.

Tina Osceola is the director of the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

"They are ancestors of the Seminole people," she told WPTV. "You know, they are our ancestors. That we do know."