Saturday, May 19, 2007

ANCIENT RHODE ISLAND BURIAL SITE THREATENED Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe moves to World Stage

( 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:

[Click here]

Reuters Photos by Brian Snyder are at:
[Click here]


Tim MacSweeney said...

That I can "identify with this story," is an understatement.
Try as I might, I just can't protect the stone features around me, around a relatively intact known village - an extremely rare thing. I take consolation that I know that the property will remain agricultural land and I have permission to explore the property.
Also, while stone remnants on my property are somewhat compromised, I can at least open them up to further study.
Consider this an open invitation to anyone interested...

Anonymous said...

It continues to amaze me that someone like Simmons, who has written an important book on New England Indian tribes, believes the cairns were part of a field clearing exercise, when we already know what field clearing entailed and what the piles look like -- not like the cairns at Smithfield.


Geophile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JimP said...

The Seaconke Wampanoag are not federally-recognized and are not a USET member tribe.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is the only USET member tribe from the Wampanoag Nation.

The Mashpee Wampanoag just received federal status this past February.

Mashpee and Aquinnah are the only two federally-recognized Wampanoag tribes.

JimP said...

I also want to second what Tim said. I have represented the property owners of the Miner Farm and Panther Orchard Farm -- two adjoining properties with not just rockpiles, but features of all kinds such as obvious evidence of quartz quarrying, at least one petroglyph, all nearby an archaeological site on the National Register.

Despite my best efforts, I can't save the features on those properties either.

Geophile said...

My mistake. Thanks for setting it straight.