Biloxi holds solemn ceremony to honor history

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There was a unique and solemn ceremony of remembrance near the Biloxi visitors center on Friday. The remains of 31 French settlers were re-interred at the site of the old Moran Art Studio, where they were uncovered after Katrina.

The centuries old bones provided a valuable look at these early 18th century visitors.

"These first French colonists walked through these very areas where we live and work today," said DMR director, Jamie Miller.

They were previously buried at the site of the old Moran Art Studio. They likely arrived in this new land around 1720.

"Our friends here are a powerful reminder of this important time in Mississippi history," said Mississippi's honorary consul of France, who reminded the crowd of the ongoing French influence here with the various city names like Gautier and D'Iberville.

These immigrants suffered from various diseases and malnutrition.  A thorough study of the bones provided valuable clues about their lifestyle and physical conditions.

"We hope there was someone who cared about them there to witness their passing. These new arrivals were laid to rest swathed only in shrouds. Their clothing and any other possessions were likely passed along to the living," said USM anthropology professor, Dr. Marie Danforth.

"With Biloxi being one of the oldest settlements in the country, it is important that we cherish and respect our history," said Mayor A.J. Holloway.

"In you the dead, whose bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit, find everlasting peace," said Bishop Roger Morin, who prayed over the site.

One by one, participants helped symbolically bury the remains.

The Moran family was touched by the solemn ceremony.

"We're very proud. We're very happy that they're back where they belong. And look forward to what the future brings," said Beverly Moran.

"Extremely important to keep the culture and the heritage and to preserve it for the future generations," added her sister, Mary Moran.

This unique re-interment closes another chapter of Biloxi history.

"I think history is very important to us, because it give us a sense of place, a sense of belonging. And that's what history means to everyone here," said historian Edmond Boudreaux.

The burial site beside the visitors center is now owned by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The DMR purchased the land with CIAP funding, through its National Heritage program. The City of Biloxi will maintain the site.

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