May 16, 2012

Weed killer sprayed on Indian mound

Franklin balks at apology for killing mound grass

By Quintin EllisonFranklin leaders declined last week to offer a formal apology to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for using weed killer on an ancient Indian mound.

“I don’t think we did anything destructive,” said Franklin Alderman Sissy Pattillo. “And I have a problem with the chief or whoever saying we did something disrespectful. That just bothers me.”

Principal Chief Michell Hicks earlier this month said he was “appalled” by Franklin’s use of a weed killer to denude the mound. Hicks called on the town to formally apologize for what he termed a culturally insensitive action and one that demonstrated a marked lack of respect for the Cherokee people.

Alderman Bob Scott was the lone town leader who wanted to issue an apology. He had drafted a letter to the chief expressing regret for what had taken place, and said that perhaps the dustup could serve as a means of opening new dialog between Franklin and the tribe. His call to send the letter received a lukewarm response from fellow town board members, however. The other aldermen pointed out that they had never been formally asked by the tribe to apologize, but instead the demand for an apology had come only through the media.
Town claims the spraying wasn't malicious:Pattillo made the point that the town didn’t just dump weed killer on the mound out of malicious intent. Franklin leaders have said they were merely trying to cut back on weekly mowing maintenance of the 6,000-square-foot mound, which is located on town property. After the grass was killed off, the town intended to replant it with a low-growing native grass variety that wouldn’t need mowing.

Nikwasi Indian Mound is one of the largest intact mounds remaining in Western North Carolina. Large earthen mounds were built to mark the spiritual and civic center of American Indian towns that once dotted the Little Tennessee River Valley through Macon County and the region. Scholars note that while its precise age is uncertain, Nikwasi Mound pre-dates even the Cherokee.
But it wasn't necessarily approved, either:Mayor Joe Collins had earlier told The Smoky Mountain News that Town Manager Sam Greenwood had exceeded his authority in ordering the weed killer to be applied.

“But decisions were made and that’s where we are at right now,” Collins said. “It didn’t jump out at me as being an affront or an indignity to the mound and certainly not to the Eastern Band. I hope it’s not an issue of strong sentiment to the tribe in particular—I’m over there on a regular basis and I’ve not picked up on it.”
Comment:  For more on Indian mounds, see Maya Ruins in Georgia?! and Mound Supporters Compared to Violent Protesters.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Cherokee, Franklin search for common ground over Nikwasi mound dispute

Since the incident in April, cultural and political leaders within the tribe have expressed an interest in regaining custody of the mound, or at the very least taking over its maintenance.

“We as the tribe, we as the Cherokee want to take it, maintain it,” said Diamond Brown, a tribal council member. Brown was asked to attend an informal gathering in Franklin last Thursday for interested parties to talk about the cultural significance of the Nikwasi mound and its future.

Nothing would change under tribal ownership, Brown said. The mound would stay mostly as is but would be cared for by the Eastern Band.

Brown added that he would like a black wrought-iron fence to surround the mound to discourage people from walking on it. He would also like to install a small interpretive exhibit next to the mound where students and visitors can learn about Nikwasi mound. The town does not promote its Cherokee connections enough, Brown said.