Native American protesters are standing firm this week, over the ongoing destruction of an ancient sacred mound near Oxford, Alabama. Local tribes are disgusted at a building project, which is stripping the mound’s earth as ‘fill-dirt’ for a retail complex across the road.
A Creek Tribal Elder tells NBC13 in this video interview, “It just absolutely makes me sick. I have a really hard time even coming down here and looking at it.”
Jackson explains that the tribe have gone down every avenue to secure the future of the mound; the state’s largest. But letters, petitions, emails and protests have so far fallen on deaf ears.
I feel like Im at home up there,” says Amber Davis, “and I dont want anyone to disturb that. The mound faces an uphill task – if federally owned, the site could be rescued. But it is currently in the hands of the city’s Commercial Development Authority, the buck of which many think stops at the city’s mayor Leon Smith. Smith has continually reiterated his desire to see the building work completed. “It’s the ugliest old hill in the world,” he tells the Native American Times. “It’s just a pile of rocks is all it is.” Smith has overseen increasing development in the 15,000-population city during his seven mayoral years.
The mayor may be putting on an agressive stance, but local councillor June Land Reaves thinks the mound’s destruction is ’embarrassing’. “I personally feel that we should treasure and preserve our history; our heritage.” State archaeologists have also offered their support to the mound. “There was a little bit of pottery found there, and deboutage where someone had made a projectile point or arrowhead or knife. We’ve made our recommendations. We think it’s worthy of being preserved.” Current efforts may be met with little success, but the tribes say they will continue fighting for their
heritage. According to elders, the next step will be to place protesters on the mound to prevent lorries from getting to and from it. Mark Davis is desperate to restore the site to its former glory: “I know it wouldnt be the same but to try and re-erect the stones the way they were up there,” he says, “but my grandchildren wont be able to know whats up there. Its a part of their history.” Fellow Native American Tony Castaneda is taking a firmer stance: “Stay off that mound, that mound is sacred.”
Wrangling over Native American sites in the US is hardly a new issue. Just last week the discovery of an ancient settlement in Tennessee has had transport authorities up in arms. It is clear Oxford’s tribespeople are not willing to give up their sacred mound. But they’ll have to contend with Mayor Smith’s myopic vision of a restaurant on the hill. “It would be a beautiful view,” he muses.