Protest planned over American Indian site destruction in Oxford
by Dan Whisenhunt
Staff Writer
Jun 26, 2009 | 5103 views |  23 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Fruithurst woman who says she is a Creek Indian elder plans a peaceful protest tonight over the city of Oxford's decision to remove a hill that contains an American Indian site.

Sharon Jackson said she and other American Indians concerned with the removal of the hill behind the Oxford Exchange will gather there at 7 p.m. tonight. They plan to meet in the Kohl's parking lot.

"We're going to have a very peaceful assembly to make our voice heard," Jackson said. "There will be quite a few in Native American regalia including me. We're inviting anybody who wants to come out and support us to come be with us."

The hill contains a stone mound and, according to the Alabama Historical Commission's deputy state historic preservation officer, it is the largest of its kind in the state. The site is at least 1,500 years old and was constructed during what was known as the Woodland era. The city, through its Commercial Development Authority (CDA), has paid to have the hill taken down and used as fill for a Sam's Club under construction near the exchange.

Jackson said she has contacted Sam's Club owner Wal-Mart with her concerns. She's also contacted Gov. Bob Riley's office and lawmakers at the national and local level.

There is some dispute about the importance of the site; Harry Holstein, a professor of archeology and anthropology at Jacksonville State University said it could contain human remains. Oxford Mayor Leon Smith and City Project Manager Fred Denney say it was used to send smoke signals.

What is not in dispute is that it is an American Indian site.

Smith declined comment on the protest Thursday. Denney said he had no reaction to the protest.

"It's a free country," Denney said. "I guess they can do as they please."

Councilman Steven Waits did not think there is a problem with tearing down the structure.

"Obviously I'd like to hear what they have to say but all of the research I've been presented with doesn't really indicate that there's an issue there," Waits said.

Councilwoman June Land Reaves said she did not think the protests would stop the demolition, adding that she thought the site was worth some sort of preservation. She said the land containing the hill belongs to the city's CDA, which operates independently of the council.

"When the land went to the CDA it took it out of everyone's hands except them," Reaves said.
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