Radar equipment used to find unmarked graves at the historic Bruner Cemetery in Coweta

Posted at 7:08 AM, Feb 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-01 08:08:48-05

COWETA, Okla. - The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Cultural Preservation Department is using geophysical equipment to locate unmarked graves at the historic Bruner Cemetery until Friday.

The team of surveyors, technicians and archaeologist are using a ground penetrating radar, similar to what the FBI uses when searching for bodies.

"You'll be able to see layer by layer of what's buried underneath the ground. It's a noninvasive equipment being respectful of ancestors and burials," explained Gano Perez, a GIS technician with the tribe. 

Then, the team will map out the cemetery with the newly-discovered graves. It is unclear how many there are in the site that spreads about an acre and a half, but the lead project coordinator, Mike Walker, believes it could be more than a dozen.

"We know of 37 people that are buried here. We have the names, but we know there's more graves," said Walker, a resident of Coweta.

He started the volunteer effort in 2015 to restore the cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a month, Walker rallies teams of volunteers to help clean up the site. 

Now, the project has grown to locate unmarked graves with the help of the tribe in order to pay proper respects and preserve history.

"It's just important to me and a few others that we preserve all of our history, so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can come out and view what the past was and to preserve the future," said Walker.

The cemetery was formerly known as Koweta Mission, where Creek families sent their children to study.

The oldest marked grave in Wagoner County is found at the cemetery where Olivia Loughridge was buried in 1845. She was married to Reverend Robert Loughridge who founded the Koweta Mission in 1843.

The City of Coweta now owns the land and is also helping in the preservation process.

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