Donna Roberts the Repatriation Coordinator for the Abenaki Nation phoned the other day to discuss the on-going battle with the Squam Lake Science Center in New Hampshire over the excavation of an old Abenaki Village site and Burial ground.
Apparently, the Science Center wants to continue construction despite the fact that this construction will disturb the burial ground. Dr. Gary Hume, state archaeologist for New Hampshire and Dr. Robert Goodby a consulting archaeologist have informed the Science Center Board that this site contains a very large village consisting of living areas, burial grounds and sacred spaces with continual occupation over thousands of years.
The Abenaki Nation and its people have never ceded or sold any of this territory. Like most areas in New England the land has been sold and resold without any consent from the original inhabitants of the region. Abenaki People and their ancestors have lived in New England and Southern Quebec since their creation stories.
Thus today the Abenaki Nation is once again under-siege. Continuously Abenaki burial sites and grave are being desecrated, sometimes unintentially, by contractors in the course of home, business or road construction, other times intentionally by archeologists who seek to learn more about the first people in the region, while placing the ancestral remains and artifacts in museum or private collections. Another source of desecration is in the area of grave robbing, which YES continues today. In many of the known historical sites of Eastern First Nation's people, you can walk these areas and find recent holes dug by grave robbers seeking to find artifacts for their collections or to resell. Federal law and in most cases state law dictates these actions illegal, but catching and obtaining convictions of these grave robbers is rare. (Except if those caught and charged are caught robbing and desecrating non-Indian cemeteries.)
Over the past few years major burial sites have been uncovered in New Hampshire and Vermont. (That we know of) We have no way of knowing how many burials are covered up or not reported each year. Each time remains are found at a site, the Abenaki Nation has to fight with private land holders and the state involved to reach agreements and understandings on how to protect the remains and burials. Each time!!
We have to ask the question. Why? If construction unearthed burials of non-Indians of European decent, most certainly the digging would stop. People do not look at the "Prime" real estate of town cemeteries which typically are in or near the center of most New England towns and say: "Lets build a science center, store or house here". Why then is it permissible to build upon a burial area or First Nation's Cemetery?
We ask all Abenaki people, as well as other First Nation's people and our non-Indian allies to stand behind and support the efforts of our repatriation coordinators in preserving and protecting our ancestors burial areas. As the attached press release states, this is a clear violation of human rights. It is a violation of all our rights, regardless whether your Indian or non-Indian.
At some point if we don't put a stop to this practice, your ancestors remains also will be dug up for a new store, house or something deemed more important.
We ask that media resources, concerned individuals and people willing to support and assist contact either:
Chief April Rushlow of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi
Chief Paul Pouliot - Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook/Abenaki People
August 18, 2001
On April 25, 2001 on land owned by the Squam Lake Science Center in Holderness NH, an Abenaki burial was accidentally uncovered in the course of electrical excavation work. The contractor followed State policy and law by halting work and notifying the local police. The Holderness police then notified the State police, medical examiner and State Archaeologist. Once the burial was identified as being Native American, the Abenaki Nation was notified and reburial was accomplished before sunset.
Over the past 2 years there have been two major construction projects in the area of this burial. The NH Fish and Game has constructed a new boating access and extensive parking areas and the Squam Lake Science Center has constructed a major new parking area.
During the third week of June, the Abenaki Nation was notified by the NH Division of Historical Resources that bone fragments were found along with artifacts in dump-truck loads of soil which had been brought to another site owned by Fish and Game. Representatives of the Nation were told that this soil had originated from an area of stock-piled soil left over from the parking lot project of the Squam Lake Science Center.
Over the course of the past 6 weeks a significant amount of human remains have been recovered from approximately 40 piles of soil. A number of volunteers, Native, non-Native, and professional archaeologists, have been hand-sifting the soil and recovering the remains and associated artifacts.
Unfortunately there is a lack of accountability on the part of the Science Center or the contractor who transported the soil. While the official position of the Science Center is that the soil did not originate from their property, there are eye-witnesses who have testified to the contrary.
A more pressing issue at this point is an imminent $1.2 million expansion project at the Science Center. Despite meetings with the Director and, most recently as this past week, with the Board of Trustees the Science Center is determined to pursue construction. In a meeting on Wednesday, August 15, 2001 the Director and Board of Trustees were presented with all of the Archaeological data gathered from this site over the past 2 years. They were also presented with information of a traditional nature by members of the Abenaki Nation and Ethnohistorical information.
Dr.Gary Hume, State Archaeologist and Dr. Robert Goodby, Consulting Archaeologist informed the Board that this is a very large village site consisting of living areas, burial grounds, and sacred spaces with continual occupation over thousands of years. This is substantiated by Archaeological models and physical evidence actually found on site.
Donna Roberts-Moody, Repatriation and Site Protection Coordinator for the Abenaki Nation, explained the Traditional belief system relating to the Ancestors' remains and the significance today of the ancient sacred spaces. John Moody, Ethnohistorian, explained the oral history and some of the traditional uses/habitation of the land.
The blatant disregard of the Squam Lake Science Center to the scientific evidence and accompanying recommendations presented by the Archaeological community would seem to be highly incongruous with the Center's mission. On the surface, it would certainly appear that the Science Center is ignoring Science!
The perseverance of the Science Center to continue ground disturbing activities in an area known to be an unmarked burial ground is in direct violation of State law and is, in fact, a Class B felony in the State of NH. In the highly probable event that one more burial is disturbed on this land, the Abenaki Nation will be calling for full prosecution to the extent dictated by law.
The Abenaki Nation protests the further destruction of their Ancestral Burial Grounds and feels there is a markedly calloused attitude on the part of the Squam Lake Science Center to issues surrounding basic human rights. At this time the Nation has plans to present a physical presence near the Science Center on Wednesday, August 22, 2001 in support of Native Burial Rights starting at 8:00 AM.
This issue should be of interest to all people--the right of ALL dead to repose in peace.
Directions: From the North or South....Interstate 93 to exit 24. Pick up Rte. 3/25 at the end of the ramp to Holderness. Left turn onto Rte. 113 in Holderness. Almost immediate right turn to the Science Center (well marked by signs).
All support is welcomed.
Also please contact:
Director of Squam Lake Science Center
Holderness New Hampshire 03245
And demand an end to the desecration of Abenaki remains at Squam lake!!!