July 30, 2009

Twittering about Oxford mound

Natives use Twitter to showcase sacred site

By Rob CapricciosoA growing number of Native American Internet users are turning to the popular social media Web site, Twitter, to get the word out on issues of traditional and cultural importance.

One of the most recent examples of the phenomenon is the vast amount of energy many users have spent raising awareness of the desecration of a stone mound in Alabama created by American Indians approximately 1,500 years ago.

The hill, which many Native Americans from several tribes use for prayer and make pilgrimages to each year, is being torn down in order to provide fill dirt for a new Sam’s Club store, which is a partner of Wal-Mart.

Sam’s Club officials have tried to alleviate concerns, saying the city of Oxford is overseeing the moving of the dirt, but they have also acknowledged knowing that many people are concerned about the situation. Still, store officials have not asked for the destruction to end.

At the same time, the multi-billion dollar company has received assurances from Oxford Mayor Leon Smith that the city isn’t really damaging anything of significance.

But Smith’s claims go against the findings of researchers who have said the hill and structures on it are of traditional importance to various tribal members. A city-commissioned study has even found tribal artifacts in the clay that composes the mound.

As the bulldozers started digging, all kinds of information about the sacred site began to be distributed online by Native activists from coast to coast. Facebook and MySpace pages, as well as other Web sites, have sprung up in dedication to the issue, with some now having thousands of group members.

Of those who have gone online to raise awareness, many have found Twitter to be an especially effective messenger.
Comment:  My friend Carolyn Chambliss is a leader in this Twitter movement, so I've been following her actions closely.

For more on the subject, see Activists Protest Mound's Destruction and Sam's Club vs. Indian Mound.

Below:  "This mound, which many tribes find sacred, is being torn down to provide fill dirt to a new a Sam’s Club in Oxford, Ala. Opponents have been using Twitter to get the word out about the desecration." (Photo courtesy Ginger Ann Brook)

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