Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department searches for possible remains

ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - It's the vacant brick building on East Main St. that used to be known as the "Love Building" over a hundred years ago.

Wednesday afternoon representatives of the Choctaw nation spent over an hour surveying the land behind it to see if any of their ancestors' remains were underground.

"We wanted to make sure none of our ancestors were sleeping back here unaware that they were forgotten and we wanted to honor them if they were here," Deanna Byrd said.

Deanna Byrd works for the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department.

She says the department was researching the last government assisted removal of the Mississippi Choctaw to Atoka in 1903 when they discovered some were also sent to Ardmore.

"There was a land speculator, he was an attorney who lived and resided here in Ardmore and he was financially backed by some members in Oklahoma City," Byrd said. "He wanted to bring Mississippi Choctaw's here to put liens on their land - he also wanted to sell them into slavery."

Byrd says the Choctaw's were living in harsh and unsanitary conditions and records show some died from pneumonia and other diseases.

Information that shocked one of the current land owners.

"The biggest thing is just being able to find out one way or the other if it is a burial ground of any kind and how we can be a part of that history," LeeAnn Pirtle said.

Pirtle says she bought the property in 2016 in efforts to save the building from being torn down and wanted to preserve it's history on Main Street.

Byrd says she was able to find other artifacts above ground including a medicine bottle that could have been used during that time.

"When we remember these stories, (we) give voices to these ancestors we are remembering and honoring them," Byrd said. "I think that's the most beautiful thing and that's what they would want."

Byrd says it could be a few weeks before an official report of the findings is released.

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