Human remains believed to be of Native American origin have been uncovered in Missouri City, Texas.

The remains were found during excavations in the Sienna area conducted by a work crew digging a test site for a future retention pond—pools of water constructed to store stormwater runoff—KTRK reported.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office (FBCSO) said that while crime scene investigators had been called to the site, the remains were likely those of an ancient Native American, specifically, an individual belonging to the Karankawa Kadla people.

The Karankawa Kadla are an indigenous people native to southeastern Texas, who were historically mostly concentrated along the state’s Gulf Coast.

The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it had been in communication with representatives of the Karankawa Kadla regarding the discovery of the remains.

“The remains were not removed and will be covered in place. Artifacts found have been returned and will also stay in place,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

“Representatives will be coming to the site in the near future to conduct a burial ritual. The area has been marked by GPS and there will be no further excavation in the area.”

“We’re proud of our diverse community, including those that came before us, and will always respect customs when possible.”

Absolem Yetzirah, representative of the Karankawa Kadla people, told KTRK he was grateful that the Sheriff’s Office was not continuing with excavations of the remains.

“As far as removing [the remains] from there, the tribe has discussed those things. We do not have the place to keep them. We would rather them stay where they are rather than to see them displayed in a museum or pulled and prodded by other people,” Yetzirah said.

Yetzirah also replied to the Sheriff’s Office statement on Facebook regarding the actions being taken after the discovery.

“On behalf of the Karankawa Kadla, The People of the Gulf Coast Lodge we thank you very much for the response and the respect,” he wrote. “At a time when our history is being erased, and our people forgotten, we have been heard and seen. This honor speaks volumes of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and their leadership.”

“We look forward to meeting your representatives in the future so that we may sing a sleeping song to the people of this land. We are so very thankful for the decision to not continue excavation and to allow the ground to rest. We lift our feathers to you FBCSO.”

Yetzirah said the Karankawa Kadla did not make use of designated spaces, such as cemeteries, to bury their dead, because “the land we lived on was/is sacred.”

Normally, individuals would be buried close to the place where they died or in locations that may have had special significance to them. This is why there are Karankawa Kadla remains in many places along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“The act of simply leaving the remains be and not removing anything, along with working with our tribe to present ceremoniously, is at this time the most we can humbly ask and receive from the land owner and local leadership,” Yetzirah said.

The representative said there was a lack of education regarding his people, noting that many Texans are not taught about the tribe or believe they are “extinct.”

“This is not true. While we may exist in a number less than 300, we are not extinct,” he wrote.

According to Tim Seiter, a Ph.D. student in the Clements Department of History at Southern Methodist University who is writing a history of the Karankawa, they were a semi-nomadic people who migrated to follow available food sources, such as buffalo, deer and fish.

Before the arrival of European colonizers in the region, there were approximately eight thousand Karankawas, Seiter wrote. However, their numbers fell over time as a result of disease, displacement and warfare.

“In the middle of the nineteenth century, after being forcibly removed from their homelands, the Karankawas were either tracked down and killed or compelled to integrate into Mexican and Anglo-American society,” Seiter wrote.

“Though there is no governmentally recognized Karankawan entity today, their blood runs through the veins of many who reside on their homeland.”