( North Smithfield , Rhode Island , USA ) Reuters News Service reported today that development threatens the future of Rock Piles estimated by archaeologist and URI Professor Frederick Meli as spanning at least 230 acres (93 hectares) and has both North Smithfield officials and that state's longest recognized Indian tribe concerned.
The Seaconke Wampanoag tribe claims the piles are a war memorial and sacred burial place kept hidden for centuries. The tribe claims it is as important to them as Arlington National Cemetery is to the United States .
Historians, state officials, private developers and tribal leaders in Rhode Island agree that Nipsachuck woods in North Smithfield is culturally and historically significant. Despite this historic significance, Narragansett Improvement Co. has said they will press on with plans to build a 122-lot housing project over 200 acres (80-hectares) in the area near the Massachusetts border.
The company claims their hired archaeologist studied the stones and concluded they were likely left in piles by early European settlers who built a network of stone walls in the area. "I don't believe any of these Indian artifacts are on my land," Reuters reports company president John Everson as saying. "The whole area is very stony."
The Seaconke Wampanoag historian has advised since the story broke that the deed for that land contained specific covenants limiting its use to grazing cattle and is specific that houses not be built on it. It also stated that any Indians remaining on that land were required by that deed of sale to wall up their fields from the English cattle. “Those covenants regarding development were in place for a reason, and now you know why,” the historian said citing the deed recorded at RI Colony Records 1, 33. "Any title researcher can verify this restriction," he said.
The Reuters Story by Jason Szep is at:
Reuters Photos by Brian Snyder are at: