Tulsa Race Massacre project progress
It's been a bit since we've updated on our progress on the Tulsa Race Massacre project, so we wanted to give an update to what's been happening behind the scenes. On Wednesday, October 25th and 26th, Deborah Dilley and I flew to Tulsa for the first time since the project began. We were asked to participate in a press conference to update progress, and to assist with re-exhumation to obtain further samples from the original 14 bodies identified. We were also available to advise on further sampling of new bodies that were expected as the dig site was expanded to include more area of the Oaklawn cemetery.
For me (Danny), this was a first visit to Tulsa and even as we boarded the flight from Salt Lake City, the weight of the responsibility to find success in this project was palpable. The day of the 26th began with a news conference to update on the new excavations that were about to be undertaken in the Oaklawn Cemetery site. It is truly an honor to stand alongside such brilliant scientists and dedicated and passionate individuals that are doing this important work.
Specifically, I'll call out:
Dr. Kary Stackelbeck, Oklahoma State Archaeologist
Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield, Forensic Anthropologist
J. Kavin Ross, "honorary science nerd"/Chief Editor-Greenwood Tribune
Alongside these dedicated individuals (as well as countless unnamed others) and with the continuing support of the Mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum, I pledged that Intermountain Forensics and indeed, the entire forensic DNA community were behind the City of Tulsa and this amazing community to "leave no stone unturned".
It was at that point, the team moved to the Oaklawn cemetery site to start the work. Walking onto that grassy field on a beautiful, sunny, fall day was, once again, one of the most humbling and emotional moments of my time in Tulsa. The gravity of the work and the passion of the team was awe-inspiring; it's truly an honor to be a part of. I cannot describe the emotions that I experienced, but I can say with no qualms that it has inspired me to work harder to find some closure and peace for this community.
The dig and exhumation worked efficiently and with amazing skill. My small part in this was to view the remains and advise the team on sampling that would be most likely to yield a successful forensic DNA profile, based on the decomposition of the remains.
From this excavation, our Intermountain Forensics (IMF) laboratory have received seven submissions of additional samples from the original remains and four submissions of new samples from new remains discovered at the expanded dig site. Phase 1 (DNA extraction and quantification) of these samples began this week at the laboratory and we will provide updates as we start seeing the results of our efforts.
We are hopeful that these new samples will push us over the "tipping point" to move on to phase 2 (DNA Sequencing) with the original samples that do not, yet, have enough DNA to move forward in the process.
Meanwhile, the two "green" samples that have reached the required DNA quantity/quality threshold to be processed through phase 2 DNA sequencing are continuing to move along the processing pathway. These samples have been prepped for sequencing and will be run next week on our sequencing instrument, the Novaseq 6000. They don't look like much in the laboratory, but here they are ready to move forward in the laboratory process.
We have temporary paused sequencing operations to upgrade our internet capabilities in the laboratory and when complete, we will re-start sequencing operations on our instrument and the batch that includes these samples is next on the queue. This run has been scheduled for Tuesday/Wednesday of next week (Dec 6-7, 2022)
We believe that we should have good results based on the data we have on these samples thus far and expect to have a usable data package to deliver to the Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy team (led by Alison Wilde as the case manager) in the next couple of weeks.
As always, IMF would not exist without the support of generous individuals that keep our laboratory running and moving forward. Please consider donating to our laboratory to help us keep progressing this essential work.
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