As per the Greenfield Recorder Thursday, July 4, 1996:
An archaeological dig set to begin Monday near French King Highway may be on hold. The dig, organized by town planners with a $67,00 grant, aims to recover American Indian artifacts, such as tools and pots, at the 65-acre site, owened by Perter Mackin.
The dig site is close to a sand pit that is part of Mackin's excavation operation. But the dig is drawing fire from the Mohawk Indians, who say it would violate Indian burial grounds."We are trying to negotiate with the Native Americans to address their concerns," town planner Teri Anderson said Wednesday. "My goal is to do that so that the dig can go forward on Monday." She hopes to resolve the issue by Friday.
At this point, Indian supporters plan to hold a vigil Monday, protesting the dig. The town has already contracted with Timelines, a Littleton-based archaeological consulting group and the Massachusetts Archaeological Association. Volunteers from Earthwatch, an international environmental group, are also expected to join in.
Brona Simon, the state archaeologist at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, says previous examinations of the site - a known former Indian fishing village - have shown no evidence of burial grounds.The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, a community in the Quebec provice of Canada, meanwhile, disagrees."The remains of our forefathers are there and by our tradition, are not to be disturbed in any manner," said Joseph Tokwiro Norton, Grand Chief of Kahnawake, in a letter last week to town and state officials. "You have no right, whatsoever, to touch this soil that is so sacred to us."He objected both to the dig and to Mackin's sand and gravel operation, which he demanded be stopped immediately. "From the time of the first non-Indian settlers to North America, our people have been murdered, raped, lied to...finally driven onto small parcels of land. Must you now rob our dead of dignity?" he wrote.The town has promised to halt the dig if it finds signs of burial grounds. But so far, this hasn't appeased the Mohawks.
The archaeologists have also arranged to have a "Native American spiritual adviser" as witness a the site, in case burial evidence - bones, traditional burial materials - emerges. Burial grounds, meanwhile, fall under a 1983 state law governing human remains that are at least 100 years old.
When burial grounds are discovered, they must be reported immediately to the historical commission and the state's Indian Affairs office. Any digging, excavation or building must cease immediately.The law says landowners should preserve the site if "prudent and feasible," Simon says of the 5 to 10 burial grounds reported each year, 75 percent are preserved. According to Timelines co-owner Michael Roberts, direct evidence of burial grounds has been found south of the Mackin site in the Canada Hill area."The ideal thing would be if the landowner woud meet with the Native Americans," said Roberts. Mackin could not be reached for comment this week. As to the future of the site, according to Anderson, the dig aims to preserve artifacts that would othewise be destroyed by the exiting sand and gravel operation, or by future development. Artifacts have already been lost to heavy looting, she said Mackin has agreed not to disturb the artifact area until after Aug. 31, to provide time for the dig.
Michael Mackin, who runs the Mackin Construction Co., says the company has no plans at this time to disturb or develop the site. Because the area has been heavily looted, Mackin says he doubts the dig will turn up many artifacts.This week, Indians and their supporters were upset by a planned dynamite blasting operation off Route 2, near the dig site. Michael Mackin says the company intends to blast rock ledge on Monday, the same day the dig is slated to begin."We want to see what kind of rock is in there,"he said. The blasting won't interfere with the dig, he said, and, because it involved bedrock, won't disturb artifacts. "There couldn't be anything in there."When artifacts are discovered inthis state, they may fall under the control of either the Massachusetts Historical Comission or the Office of Environmental Affairs. The historical agency handles cases involving artifacts on sites already listed in the state Register of Historic Places. The environmental affairs office steps in under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, when artifacts turn up on land slated for new development or expansion that involves state permits or funding. In those cases, the state's preference is to leave archaeologically significant sites intact, by revising site plans, according to Janet Hutchins, associate direcotr of the MEPA office. If, however, Indian artifacts are discovered on other privately owned land - like the Mackin property - the state has little control, until someone want to develop it. So right now, Anderson says the artifacts are endangered: if Mackin's sand and gravel work continues, artifacts could be destroyed. The town, she says, has no power to stop that. All it can do is recover the artifacts and protect them in a museum setting.