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Oxford Mound Update

Monday, July 13, 2009


Thankyou-thankyou-thankyou to *everyone* who has emailed me - and contacted the mayor's office, the governor, Wal-Mart Corporate, etc. about the destruction of the mound in Oxford.

Since my post on Friday morning, there have been a few new things. The Anniston Star ran another article, 'Heflin Man Brings Stories, Photos Back From Mound' which reads in part:

OXFORD — His grandmother told him the story when he was 9.

Johnny Rollins, 49, of Heflin, still remembers. His grandmother's name was Hollie, and she was an American Indian, though Rollins doesn't know her tribe. What sticks out in his mind years later is what she told him about the hill in Oxford shortly before she passed.

"She knew she was going to die," Rollins said. "She said any time I wanted to talk to her, go to that mountain."

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A city project manager says it's still intact, though its true condition can't be determined. The city recently has put up gates and no-trespassing signs.

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"(My grandmother) described how it was, said when they buried people, they'd stack rocks on them," Rollins said. "Each time they'd come to visit, they'd stack rocks on it."

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The thought of the mound's destruction bothers Rollins; though the city says it hasn't touched the mound, there are still workers around the hill. For him, it's like someone disturbing his own grave.

"It seems like it's taking part of you away," he said of the demolition. "I always felt I had ties to that there."

Tony Castaneda and Sharon Jackson, who both say they are American Indian elders, are familiar with the story Rollins' grandmother told him. Jackson said she often visits mounds and makes offerings of tobacco and sage.

Robert Thrower, chairman of the heritage committee for the United South and Eastern Tribes, said too much emphasis is being placed on whether the sites contain remains or any other artifacts. USET is made up of 25 recognized tribes on the Eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast region. Thrower is also cultural authority director for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

Even if the hill held nothing but the mound, it would still be sacred, he said. He said USET passed a resolution in 2007 urging that stone structures like the one in Oxford be protected. There are few legal protections for them, however.

He said leaving stones at stone mound sites was a "fairly common practice" for American Indian groups and other cultures. Hathorn has said demolishing the mound would be like destroying a church. Thrower said that's a good comparison.

"I feel these structures obviously were not all built at one time," Thrower said. "People would come periodically to these sites. We're talking about prayer. That's why we call these structures, 'Prayer in stone.'"

The report from the University of Alabama about the mound is here. Some of it is pretty interesting; essentially it ends with them not finding remains on the mound in their particular sample but that compared with other such mounds in the area, they put the chances of it at 50/50.

The Anniston Star also published another story titled 'UA Report On Oxford Stone Mound Released; City Councilwoman: Company Told Workers Not To Remove Mound' which reads in part:

OXFORD — Archaeologists who investigated a mysterious stone mound behind the Oxford Exchange said the city should have an expert on hand as the structure is demolished in case it contains human remains.

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The state Historical Commission said in its comments on the report it was still concerned about the possibility of human remains in the mound. The commission recommended the city leave the mound alone.

"It is our opinion that stacked stones in this location may be a significant cultural and spiritual resource to native tribes who have ties to this area regardless of the presence or absence of artifacts," the Historical Commission wrote.

When Denney was asked if the city followed the report's recommendation and hired an expert in case remains were found during the excavation, he said the mound was still intact. Attempts to determine the true state of the stone mound were unsuccessful because the city has not allowed reporters to visit the site.

"We ain't nowhere near it, but anytime we've been anywhere near it most of the time we've had a man with a doctorate degree there," Denney said, adding. "We're not going to take down that mound till a later time." (emphasis mine)

Denney said he would have no further comments until an "appropriate" time. Attempts to reach Mayor Leon Smith on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Councilwoman June Land Reaves said she visited the site and spoke with an employee of Oxford-based Taylor Corp., the company hired to tear down the hill containing the mound. She said the company has ordered workers not to touch the site.

"(He said) they were not going to touch that part up there and they were supposed to be creating ways to get up there and get around it," Reaves said.

Councilman Steven Waits said he didn't know if the city has stopped short of destroying the mound; attempts to reach other councilmen on Thursday were unsuccessful.


From the article cited above, City Project Manager Fred Denney is quoted as, "We ain't nowhere near it, but anytime we've been anywhere near it most of the time we've had a man with a doctorate degree there," Denney said, adding. "We're not going to take down that mound till a later time."

First of all: "we ain't nowhere near it"? Um, take a look at the pic below!! And secondly, "we're not going to take down that mound till a later time"? So it's their intention all along to get rid of it? Just...later, like he said?
A listing of people to contact regarding this issue is at the bottom of this post.

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