Monday, July 27, 2009

"It's Just a Pile of Rocks"

This article from The Washington Post comes courtesy of Native Nations Joining Forces. It is about more than a pile of rocks, and more than a religious site- it's about the value of aboriginal people, and all non-Christians, in the United States. Would this happen to a pilgrims' church? I doubt it. The message in actions like these is clear: if it doesn't support the wealth and power of the white majority (Christian churches do- through indoctrination, networking and political lobbying- and so does Wal-Mart), it's not important.

Ala. city plows beneath Indian site for Sam's Club

By JAY REEVES The Associated Press Tuesday, July 21, 2009; 5:33 AM

OXFORD, Ala. -- 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 Sam's Club store, a move that appalls preservationists.

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, about 60 miles east of Birmingham.

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.

Indian historian Robert Thrower is aghast at what he sees as the city's lack of concern for the historical importance of the site, which he said is similar to others along the East Coast. Groups have saved rock mounds in Montague, Mass., North Smithfield, R.I., and elsewhere.

"With increasing development occurring, these sites are in jeopardy," said Thrower, a member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama and chairman of culture and heritage for the United South and Eastern Tribes. "Here, you're looking at a site that is a sacred site for us."

Denney said the city purchased the hill and surrounding acreage several years ago for $10 million for development. Faced with questions about an ancient Indian site, Smith said the city paid the University of Alabama $60,000 to study the mound.

University of Alabama researchers found six shards of Indian pottery under rocks atop the mountain, and their report said the mound was likely built by Indians during the late Woodlands period.

Researchers didn't discover any evidence of burial sites among the rocks, though they said such remains could have been lost to erosion or looting. Oxford's mayor said the lack of bones means there's no reason not to bulldoze the mound.

"It's just a pile of rocks is all it is," said Smith.

City officials deny they are insensitive to history. Denney said officials have banned development at a 12-acre site about a half-mile from the hill because archaeologists found evidence that Indians once had a community there.

Thrower said Indians from that settlement possibly carried many of the rocks up the steep hill to mark a place of prayer or to commemorate special events. There's no way to move the stones elsewhere and preserve the site, he said.

"A colleague of mine referred to these places as ..prayers in stone,'" Thrower said. "For us it's immaterial whether there are burial or historical artifacts present. The site itself is historic."


Alienation said...

Now see, this is exactly the problem with sociological racism and viewing groups through this sort of weird anthropological lens.

For example current excavations in Cairo and Mexico. Anthropologists have been exploiting the land over there, digging up tombs to see what the dead ate, wore, etc., I don't think I have to argue the point that surely if this was done to Roosevelt, or digging up Arlington Cemetery or picking apart George Washington's decrepit old asshole skeleton to see what he "ate" and displaying his genitals in the Louvre Museum, would be "different". He is an important part of our culture after all.

There's this respect for old dead white people that simply doesn't exist for anyone else because they are considered more "anthropological" than they are civilized and worthy of respect after life. We don't value these people in life, why would we in death?

"tribal artifacts"

This is what I mean, the word "Artifacts" doesn't even really even acknowledge the USAGE of tools made by these people. Because they don't care enough about making dead POC look "smart" they give words like "artifacts" so the objects have no contexts. Lemme explain what I mean.

Europe vs other cultures in antiquity in word usage alone:

Classical vs. Ancient

Chief vs. King

City vs. Village

Language vs. Dialect

Jungle vs. Forrest

Can we think of any European culture we've studied as "tribal" for example? It's the same shit, but a different word. "Tribal" applies to brown people all over the world though.

There's been this movement for years in Brooklyn to tear down Greenwood Cemetery, this massive Cemetery in Brooklyn and build things there since the city has no space, I heard. But in general people are flipping out about it (out of the same 'respect for the old dead white guys and gals' Native Indians apply to their own culture). But if that were slaves, we would've had pricey condo's and fancy boutiques all over that area by now.

Wall Street still has massive slave remains underneath it in NYC. But that's "different" because those people are "different", and not really people.

This article is SO angering.

Alienation said...

"Classical vs. Ancient"

I meant to say Classical vs "Primitive" here.

uppitywhore said...

I think the comparison to how slaves are viewed is quite valid. Maintaining slavery meant wiping out any existence of African cultures on plantations. Devaluing their histories as "primitive," "savage" and "tribal," compared to "enlightened," "civilized" and "modern" white culture was a way of keeping them in line- leaving them no alternatives to which they could compare their lives under white rule, and no identities as free people to rally around. Aboriginals in the US and Canada have undergone the same blatant and ongoing attempts to eliminate their cultural histories and identities from the second white people got here, because our "modern" use of their land is supposed to be more important than their "primitive" use of their land- like for religious worship or historical understandings of their roots, even though "modern" churches and museums might make a claim to aboriginal "artifacts" that should have been left where they were in the first place. From giving them smallpox to residential schools to the constant destruction of sites of cultural importance, aboriginals are expected to "catch up" with "modern" whites by forgetting about their own culture and traditions. And if they don't, we treat them as hostile, backwards "Indians" trying to stand in our way, using that to justify why we had a right to their land to begin with (ie. the "we had better technology. that's what happens in war. we gave them an easier way of life but they didn't want it" arguments). In this case, the goal is to enslave the land, and hope the people just disappear.

uppitywhore said...

i should add that viewing slaves, and most people of colour everywhere ever, as undeveloped, uncivilized and unimportant helps whites justify abusing them.
one of my friends works for a person who *actually* believes that there is a darwinian-type science to economics and the smart, white, northern people have been naturally selected to dominate and exploit the economies of less developed and less intelligent people of colour in the global south. it is beyond my comprehension that this guy could ever take himself seriously, but apparently he does. and he's in a position to share this crap with other people.

uppitywhore said...

I've been think abut the word "tribe" because we don't use it a lot here (nor would *any* newspaper publish the word Indian, unless referring to the Indian Affairs Ministry or people from India). We use the word nation, probably because aboriginal sovereignty is somewhat recognized here (so is French sovereignty, oddly enough... I wonder what would happen if the US recognized Mexican-American and South American First Nations sovereignty). I think American progessives should start doing the same thing- to show support for aboriginal people and to force people to actually think about the genocide of first nations citizens and cultures. I will start using "first nations" in place of "aboriginal" in this blog from now on.

Alienation said...

"one of my friends works for a person who *actually* believes that there is a darwinian-type science to economics and the smart, white, northern people have been naturally selected to dominate and exploit"

And this is the problem with darwinism in general. It's based on heirarchy, domination, and other capitalistic tendencies and puts a "Mother Nature approved" stamp on it.

For that reason, I find Darwin no more interesting than I find Freud. There are probly theories about the development of humankind that make more sense, but we will never hear about them because 1. We don't much like "other world" ideology as it relates to science, especially if they are not capitalistic in some way or from the "civilized" (white?) world. 2. It doesn't justify our way of life.

I'm agnostic and all, but just because I don't believe in creationism doesn't mean I'm gonna support the theory of evolution to a tee. What is science if not another religion, after all? This is a binary like "good" or "evil" "science or creatonism" "capitalism" or "anarchy". Binary thinking in all shapes or forms has proven totally irrational, because nothing about humans or animals exists simply in duality. Just as "black men are victims, so they must be saints", "you are either gay or you're not", "you are black or white". This is magical thinking.

"it is beyond my comprehension that this guy could ever take himself seriously, but apparently he does"

I'd like to say that's hilarious. But it's actually such a popular belief that it's just plain sad and pathetic.

uppitywhore said...

one of my professors plays a "game" with his students. he puts up a bunch of quotes and gets them to try to guess which ones were Darwin and which were Hitler. it's a hard game.

i fucking hate freud. as an english major, i heard a lot of freudian theory and kept wondering "doesn't anyone realize he was a misogynistic psycho with no grip on reality??? why are we still talking about him." there are plenty of other psychoanalytical theories available, most of which are a lot more in touch with reality, but no, it's gotta be freud. i'm sure a lot of scientists feel the same way when they want to think about evolution, but can't escape darwinism. i'm also sure that science is bullshit and refuse to believe in anything that i don't have to. if gravity stops working, i won't be surprised. it'd be more convenient if it didn't, and i generally take for granted that it won't... it just won't shake the foundations of my beliefs.

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