Regional Tribes Banned from Inspecting Suspected Burial Ground Slated for Destruction

  • by: Rolf Cachat
  • recipient: MA Attorney General, Dept. of Justice -Civil Rights Division, Town of Shutesbury Planning Board, Building Inspector, Select Board

In ugly irony, a suspected Native burial ground was scheduled for destruction in the middle of the holiest week of the Algonquian calendar, when the deceased are memorialized.

Lake Street Development is still looking to dig up a suspected burial ground without allowing any Tribal official to see the site, and without performing standard tests for human remains.

Tribal Historic Preservation Officers from Federally recognized tribes wrote letters to the town’s Planning Board asking to inspect the site; all were banned by the developer. All we seek is legitimate testing and inspection access by a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, as per Bureau of the Interior standards for such a matter.

 No test capable of determining the presence or absence of human remains were performed. Lakes Street partners broke MA burials law by not reporting their survey to the State Archaeologist's office. The Board's own hired archaeologist said the survey is "insufficient" in many ways and "a THPO should be included," but the Board declined to reject the permit as non-compliant anyway!

They gave Lake St. 2 weeks to repeat their survey and the Town's position is to approve the permit regardless. The Town Counsel and the PB are refusing to use their power to reject a failed compliance of permit.

5 Plaintiffs have filed for a Federal Injunction to stop this until a proper survey and Tribal access are complied with.  Please support our effort to obtain an emergency injunction. All we want is a proper survey that includes the Tribes.

The Chicago speculators say on their website that they develop “green” energy on “compromised” land. Yet, these speculators want to cut down over 20 acres of healthy forest and destroy a suspected Native burial ground.

Several individuals and groups have investigated sacred sites in this town and have also expressed concern. Massachusetts General Law 114 Sec. 17 defines a burial ground as “any place suspected to contain the remains of one or more American Indians” and forbids tampering without a special permit, or "alienation for any other purpose."

By banning Native Americans from inspecting a suspected burial ground while intending to dig it up and cut down a healthy forest, these Chicago speculators paint the ugliest and most destructive face possible on “green energy.”

This letter originally received 40+ local signatures.

-Rolf Cachat-Schilling, Mohawk & Nipmuc descendant, science research editor, and researcher on Native American culture and religion.

Please read and consider supporting equal protection for all human grave sites.  We seek only to apply responsible tests and uniform practices when dealing with suspected human graves.  Thank you!

Update #37 years ago
An Emergency Temporary Injunction has been led by 5 private citizens
to ensure Tribes can inspect their suspected burial grounds and proper
tests are done before it's too late. What we need now is an attorney to
follow through on this case.
Please help raise funds to pay for the protection of suspected burials
and Native rights by sharing the following link:
Please consider making a small donation. Sharing is caring, so please,
Update #27 years ago
5 Plaintiffs filed for a Federal Injunction in US Dist. Court, seeking access by Tribal Officers enforced under the Fed.NRHP declaration of a Special Traditional Cultural Property including Shutesbury. The Planning Board's archaeologist reported that the survey was insufficient and should include a Tribal officer. Lake St. has 2 weeks to respond.
Update #17 years ago
The Monday hearing to determine the fate of the suspected burials was postponed until today, Wednesday, causing many expert witnesses for the burials to be unable to attend! However, we are filing a Federal Civil Rights complaint and motion for an injunction as we speak.
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