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Rumor has it that WalMart ordered the archaeological grave removals stopped so they could go ahead with construction of their store. Archaeologic sources report that they were ordered off the site last week and more graves, as well as pottery, flint and bones, are going to be covered with cement. If this is true, then evidence that this is occurring needs to be documented and this horrendous practice stopped.
Last summer, 1997, it was announced that construction of a Wal-Mart/Lowe's super center was being planned for a location on Charlotte Pike in the West Meade neighborhood of Davidson County Tennessee, Nashville Tennessee. The construction plans require the destruction of a prehistoric Native American cemetery and Civil War fortifications. The Native cemetery dates to the Mississippian cultural period and is probably around 800 years old. There are at LEAST 40 known Indian graves on this site, and it is believed that the number of burials may reach into the hundreds. The Civil War fortifications are Confederate cannon emplacements and embankments along the Cumberland River known as Kelley's Battery. These guns overlooked the river and were used to shell Union river traffic." The residents of West Meade, local Native Americans, and others rallied to stop the rezoning of the property. Their bid was unsuccessful despite proving that locating a super center across the street from an elementary school would endanger the children as well as concerns over crime and inadequate road systems to handle the increased traffic. Add to this the destruction of the native site and the Confederate archaeological features, it is beyond belief that the zoning change was ever approved.
- On Monday October 27, 1997, JDN Realty filed a 'complaint versus unknown descendants' in Davidson County Chancery Court, requesting permission to 'terminate the use of land as a burial ground and to remove certain remains and artifacts and rebury these items' [#97-3529II]
- On January 20th, 1998, the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes faxed a letter to the court and the Tennessee Department of Archaeology as the 'unknown descendants' of the complaint. This letter was never heard in court and the judge disavowed any knowledge of its existence.
- On January 23rd, 1998, Davidson County Tennessee Chancellor Barbara McCoy ruled that Native Americans have no 'standing' in Tennessee courts.
- On January 28th, 1998, Chancellor McCoy terminated the Native cemetery clearing the way for destruction of the site. The ruling was based on Judeo-Christian standards of belief regarding what constitutes an abandoned cemetery.
- Ch. 468, Part 15; T.C.A., Part 11-1515,11-6-116" "Excavation of areas containing Native American Indian human remains" and 0400-9-1-.05 Observation of Disinterment" "OBSERVATION OF DISINTERMENT BY NATIVE AMERICAN OBSERVERS" is the legal protocol for observers during Native American grave removal in Tennessee. Tennessee state archaeologist Nick Fielder stated that JDN Realty will not allow any Native American observer during removals other than the one from the Tennessee Archaeological Council.
- Previously it was thought that an area near the creek was the only Native American site on the property. However, a mound also exists there and is targeted for destruction. Further, this mound has been declared non-mortuary (burial) and therefore does not fall under the scope of any Tennessee law. This means that any artifacts recovered would become the property of the property owner and since it is non-mortuary there is no requirement to 'look' for graves during excavation.
- Numerous 'prayer ties' and 'prayer feathers' have been removed from the property reportedly because they were disgusting to the property owner.
- On March 13th, 1998 a demonstration against this project by local Native Americans was held at the entrance to the site. Three individuals were admitted to the burial site. One was Lou Medicine Bird, a Southern Cheyenne Tsississtas Priest who consecrated the site and declared it sacred. The United States Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over some of the site and they relayed to us that FEMA flood plain management ordinances apply to most of the rest of the site. Therefore, there is federal land and a sacred site which would prevent development under Federal Executive Order 13007, but state and federal law bodies are refusing to enforce this order and stop the construction.
- Historically Tennessee has seized any artifacts recovered from these sites. In this case it was ordered that any artifacts be reburied with the remains. Yet, the local media and others with the archaeological contractor have stated the state would seize these artifacts too. Further, the normal study period in Tennessee for remains has been 6 months in this case it was ordered to be 1 year. Why, when there are thousands of remains in museums, universities, etc. already studied' is it necessary to take a year to study these?
- Recovered Native American remains are stored in cardboard boxes until reburial. When they are reburied these boxes then become their coffin not the stone boxes in which they were originally placed.
This site is maintained by JS Dill.