To Rita Chong-Dela Cruz of the Historic Preservation Office, Department of Community & Cultural Affairs: Thank you for offering Swift and Harper Archaeological Resource Consulting the opportunity to oversee the reburial of the Best Sunshine prehistoric burials.
In considering your kind offer, we find ourselves in an interesting and conflicted situation. As you recall, we excavated within what was to become the Best Sunshine property for Mr. Nakamoto in the late 1990s. This property was intensively investigated by our firm between the years 1996 and 1999 (Swift et al. 1996 a and b, 1997, 1998 a and b, and 1999). During our investigations, approximately 95% of the proposed (at that time) hotel was cleared of archaeological materials. A total of 260 human remains and 53 archaeological features were treated according to HPO stipulations. The large number of burials and former intact deposits at this site contribute to make this one of the most significant archaeological sites in the CNMI. The condition of the burials and the recovery of a larger than usual amount of slingstones suggests that the village may have been occupied prior to and during the time of the Spanish-Chamorro wars, circa AD 1684. Poignant discoveries included a high number of child burials. A probable cause for the high rate of child mortality may have been contagious diseases. In the historic records, these are referred to as ship’s sickness (alluding to disease spread by the Spanish galleons). These lines of evidence suggest that the time frame extends earlier for site occupation. To determine the exact dates, it will be necessary to obtain specific dates through radiocarbon dating. Site SP-1-0762 continues to provide a unique and significant glimpse into the past life ways of the Chamorro people.
Unfortunately, Mr. Nakamoto was unable to secure investors for his project and he was forced to abandon the island and his responsibilities for the archaeological investigation. SHARC was able to secure the funding that covered the field work only. Funding for the laboratory analyses of the artifacts, specialist’s costs (i.e., osteological, radiocarbon, wood identification, faunal, etc.) as well as all reports was not provided to our firm. In the 21 years that have elapsed since Mr. Nakamoto abandoned the project, we have met with your office (before your tenure) numerous times when potential investors or local projects were proposed for this project area. In all of these meetings your office stated that the first condition for any developer would be to have the previous archaeological materials (i.e., human remains, artifacts, and botanical and other samples) analyzed. In addition, the drafting of maps and all reporting would be the responsibility of the new developer. Although costly, the benefit to the developer would be access to cleared areas without any cultural findings. With this assurance by your office, SHARC stored all of the artifacts, samples, and a portion of the human remains in our lab, which we had rented at our expense until last year. After that time, the burials and artifacts have been stored at your office near the airport. To date, with this new project now completed by Best Sunshine, we have neither been consulted by your office concerning this outstanding condition to treat the previous archaeological work for the history of our island nor any mention of the debt owed to our company.
I this regard, we have no problem with the reburial of the Best Sunshine burials. We assume that the required excavations and reporting are completed for these remains. Concerning the Nakamoto burials, we do not agree to the reburial of these remains until all analysis and reporting has been conducted. Furthermore, we request that the “Community Chest” fund placed by Best Sunshine be used to enable us to complete the necessary analyses and reporting for the Nakamoto human remains and features. This is the only right that Best Sunshine, who benefited greatly from our work at the hotel site, pay for the necessary work to bring the story of this important prehistoric village in the heart of Saipan.
Given these factors, we are unable to participate in the reburial of the Nakamoto remains. We do appreciate you requesting our services and look to the good guidance of your office to help us secure the necessary funding to complete our most important study. Thank you!
Michael A. Fleming
Marilyn K. Swift
Randy A. Harper
Swift and Harper Archaeological Resource Consulting