Reblogged  from  :  Earth First News Wire

17 May


from Facing South

City leaders in Oxford, Ala. have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club, a retail warehouse store operated by Wal-Mart.{C}A University of Alabama archaeology report commissioned by the city found that the site was historically significant as the largest of several ancient stone and earthen mounds throughout the Choccolocco Valley. But Oxford Mayor Leon Smith — whose campaign has financial connections to firms involved in the $2.6 million no-bid project — insists the mound is not man-made and was used only to “send smoke signals.”

“The City of Oxford and its archaeological advisers have completed a review and evaluation of a stone mound that was identified near Boiling Springs, Calhoun County, Alabama, and have concluded that the mound is the result of natural phenomena and does not meet the eligibility criteria for the Natural [sic] Register of Historic Places,” according to a news release Smith issued last week.

In fact, the report does not conclude the mound is a result of “natural phenomena” but says very clearly it is of “cultural origin.” And while the University’s Office of Archaeological Research does not believe the site qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places, the Alabama Historical Commission disagrees, noting that the structure meets at least three criteria for inclusion: its “association with a broad pattern of history,” architecture “embodying distinctive characteristics,” and for the information it might yield to scholars.

The site is also significant to Native Americans. The Woodland and Mississippian cultures that inhabited the Southeast and Midwest before Europeans arrived constructed and used these mounds for various rituals, which may have included funerals. There are concerns that human remains may be present at the site, though none have been found yet.

United South and Eastern Tribes, a nonprofit coalition of 25 federally recognized tribes from Maine to Texas, passed a resolution in 2007 calling for the preservation of such structures, which it calls “prayer in stone.” Native Americans have held protests against the mound’s demolition, and last week someone altered a sign for the Leon Smith Parkway that runs past the development to read “Indian Mound Pkwy.”

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After writing the post yesterday about how the city of Oxford is destroying a 1500-year-old Indian mound to use it as fill for the building of a Sam’s Club, I just had to go see it for myself.

It towers over the shopping center “Oxford Exchange”:

You can see how the hill has just been scraped clean – there are roads around the mound all the way to the top. This hill used to be wooded and now there is just a sad clump of a few trees at the very top where the stone mound is (just to be crystal-clear here – the stone mound is at the top of this hill. It’s the stone mound at the top that is man-made. The hill itself is not man-made):

We watched truck after truck come down the hill fully loaded with earth.

From the back of the hill, you can see this backhoe (bottom right of this pic below) scraping the hill clean:

When we were there, we met three other people who were watching what was going on with disgust. One young woman was there taking pictures and had been approached by the construction people to stop taking pictures and to get off ‘private property’. They said they were going to take the phone she was using to take pictures and she refused.

Bullies! You know, if you are doing something you’re ashamed of doing, you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Why under any other circumstances would a construction crew object to anyone taking pictures of their progress? These people know what they are doing is wrong.

I’m sure some of these people are workers who don’t want to get mixed up in the moral or ethical conflict and are just trying to make a living; who is really to blame is the mayor, Leon Smith, and those in the city’s Commercial Development Authority, which owns the mound.

What’s really rich is that the street that runs in front of the mound is ‘Leon Smith Parkway’.

The AP article titled ‘Oxford Pays for Demolition of Indian Mound’ details the incestuous relationship between the city’s no-bid contract and political contributions from the construction company directly to the mayor’s campaign. Ugly!!

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It  is unfortunate  that the  link  they  give to the AP article can  no longer  be found.  I did however find and article from the  Tuscaloosa and I have posted some of it below.


Oxford taxpayers fund demolition of Indian mound

Hill’s dirt to be used as fill for new Sam’s Club

A stone mound created by American Indians sits behind the Oxford Exchange, Thursday. The stone mound will soon disappear and whether Oxford’s taxpayers wanted it or not, they paid for its destruction.

The Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 5, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 10:49 p.m.

OXFORD | A stone mound on a hill behind the Oxford Exchange created by American Indians 1,500 years ago will soon disappear.

And whether Oxford’s taxpayers wanted it or not, they paid for its destruction.

Workers hired by the city’s Commercial Development Authority are using the dirt from the hill as fill for a new Sam’s Club. The project has angered American Indians who, along with a Jacksonville State University archaeology professor, say the site could contain human remains.

Oxford Mayor Leon Smith and City Project Manager Fred Denney say it was used to send smoke signals.

The city’s CDA uses taxpayer money and assets to lure commercial businesses. The $2.6 million no-bid CDA contract for preparing the Sam’s site went to Oxford-based Taylor Corp. That money came from the sale of city property to Georgia-based developers Abernathy and Timberlake and from additional money provided by the city.

In Alabama, CDAs are exempt from bid laws, meaning contracts can go to whichever company the board chooses. Oxford’s CDA board and its actions have multiple connections to Smith’s political fundraising:


At least three board members or their employers have contributed to his political campaigns.


Taylor Corp., under the ownership of Tommy Taylor, has received thousands of dollars in city contracts for non-CDA work. Taylor donated $1,000 to Smith in 2004 and $1,000 in 2008.


Abernathy and Timberlake donated $1,000 to Smith’s re-election campaign in 2004.


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City plows beneath Indian site for fill dirt


OXFORD, Alabama (AP) – Bucket loaders and bulldozers are tearing apart a hill that researchers call the foundation of an ancient Native American site to provide fill dirt for a wholesale warehouse, a move that appalls preservationists.

This July 14  photo shows city project manager Fred Denney standing atop a hill called Signal Mountain in Oxford, Ala. The city is removing soil from the hill to provide fill dirt for a new retail development despite claims that rocks atop the hill are part of an ancient, sacred Indian site. The new development is shown in the background. AP Photo / JAY REEVES

Tribal advocates and state officials say a large stone mound that tops the 200-foot rise was put there a millennium ago by Indians during a religious observance. It is similar to rock mounds found up and down the Eastern Seaboard, historians say, and likely dates to Indians of the Woodlands period that ended in 1000 A.D.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Elizabeth Ann Brown of the Alabama Historical Commission. “I find it hard to believe that for fill dirt anyone would do this.”

Despite a city-commissioned study that found tribal artifacts in the red clay that makes up the mound, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith denies the work by the city is damaging anything important. He said the stones atop the hill are a natural part of what locals call Signal Mountain and were exposed by millions of years of erosion.

“It’s the ugliest old hill in the world,” said Smith, who has overseen a mushrooming of big-box stores in this east Alabama city of 15,000 during his seven terms as mayor.

The hill certainly is an eyesore these days. Its wooded sides have been stripped bare, and the red soil is being trucked downhill to the site of a new Sam’s warehouse store and a small retail strip, where it’s being used to build up a good base for foundations.

The rock mound perched atop the hill is mostly undisturbed so far, though it is denuded save for a few spindly trees that haven’t been knocked down. Officials with Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said no material from the rock mound is going into the site where the store is under construction.

Brown said the state lacks the power to halt the project, and petitions and protests haven’t done anything to stop the work. Big yellow dump trucks rumble up and down the hill, located behind a retail development just off Interstate 20.

City project manager Fred Denney said officials plan to remove the top of the hill eventually to create an elevated, eight-acre site that will overlook the Choccolocco Valley and the city of Oxford.

“It would be a beautiful view,” said the mayor, who envisions a motel or restaurant atop the hill.

Read Full Article Here