April 06, 2006

Archaeologists to Start Large Dig in Virgina

Back home in Virginia, archaeologists are set to start a large investigation (about 6,000 acres of forests and fields) to pave the way for a future reservoir. They will be looking for Indian artifacts, but the remaining tribal descendants (and there are very few native people left from Virginia’s past) are putting up a bit of a legal fight.

"Let the poor people rest, let the artifacts rest," said Warren Cook, assistant chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

"This is not like digging up Aztec remains in Mexico," said David Bailey, a lawyer representing the Mattaponi in its fight against the reservoir. "The tribe is literally 2 miles away, so it's very sensitive."

The government has been trying to work out an agreement with the tribes, including an offer of 1.5 million dollars but the tribes won’t bite.

"We've felt all along that you cannot mitigate this sort of problem," said Upper Mattaponi Chief Ken Adams. "We've been here ... 10,000 years and (Newport News) has been here 400 years and they want us to mitigate? That's impossible."

I find that quote pretty interesting. Given the lack of records and solid evidence we don’t actually know what people groups or tribes lived in that area and for how long --- there really isn’t any way the Chief can claim that. However, ironically, if the investigation were to go through its likely that information would be available.

Archaeologists who surveyed the site of the proposed reservoir in 1996 found --- but did not excavate --- 112 camp sites. Artifacts revealed Indians had lived in the area for 8,000 years.

There really as a lot of Indian history still to be unearthed in the area, hopefully for their sake an agreement can be reached by the tribes. As it is, it seems the investigation will go on either way.


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