Ancient Native American Mound to be Destroyed for Walmart-owned Retail Warehouse

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9 July 2013

As if the destruction of one ancient archaeological site wasn’t enough, many similar sites of significant historical value across the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. Is this what “progress” looks like?

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Nicola Brown

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Just when we thought it couldn’t possibly happen again, developers have set to the destruction of an ancient Native American mound in Oxford, Alabama, for the construction of a retail warehouse store operated by Walmart.

The 1,500-year-old ceremonial mound is of particular historical significance, being the largest of several stone and earthen mounds in the Choccolocco Valley. This fact hasn’t stunted the $2.6-million construction project, however, which is currently digging up the dirt from the mound to use as fill for yet another big-box retail store, Sam’s Club, which is owned and operated by Walmart.

The city’s mayor, Leon Smith, claims the site is not man-made and was only used to “send smoke signals.” This statement flies in the face of the Alabama Historical Commission’s decree that the site meets at least three criteria that make it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Mounds including this one are very important to the Native American community. They are ritualistic sites where funerals may even have been held. Johnny Rollins, a local resident, recalls how his grandmother told him that when she died he could “go to that mountain” to connect with her. He described the demolition as feeling like a part of himself was being taken away. Protests have already been held demanding a stop to the destruction.

To compound the nefariousness of the issue, the Oxford Commercial Development Authority (CDA), the public board who owns this land and much of the city’s land, and who uses taxpayer money to lure developers to the city, didn’t accept any bids for this project; it went straight to Oxford-based Taylor Corp. whose owner, Tommy Tailor, has donated money to the city’s mayor on multiple occasions. But the most shocking revelation might be that part of the money the CDA paid in engineering contracts went to an archaeological study; the firm who conducted the study has also donated money to the mayor.

What looks like a very organized conspiracy to sanction the eradication of this historically significant site is, appallingly, pressing ahead. The crass words of mayor Leon Smith seem to unceremoniously sum up the senseless destruction: “What it’s going to be is more prettier than it is today.”

This story is sadly one of so many that have surfaced across the world in the last few months, including the destruction of a Mayan pyramid in Belize for a highway in May, and most recently a Peruvian pyramid demolished by real estate developers in June.

What do you think this trend in destruction of ancient archaeological sites says about our attitude toward progress and development? What needs to change to reverse this trend?

 

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Nicola Brown

Nicola Brown is a British-born, Toronto-based writer and editor with an incurable addiction to travel. A budget backpacker at heart, Nicola prefers immersive adventure to luxury, whether it be exploring Naxos' cliffs by moped, ziplining through the Costa Rican jungle or dogsledding across snowy Ontario. After the UK and Canada, her third home is southern France, a family summer destination since she was born. On nicolalaurenbrown.com she blogs about everything from travel to design to psychology. "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine