Manataka American Indian Council
At the convergence of the French Broad and Little Pigeon Rivers [in Tennessee] lies a point of land approximately 11.5 acres in size. This tiny piece of real estate is the subject of a growing concern and controversy. Current owners of the property hope to sell the land for personal profit. The prospective buyer hopes to develop the site for an even greater personal profit. The current plans are to level the point and fill it full of 400 condominiums.
Protests began in earnest in February of 2004. The first protest took place in front of Mayor Bryan Atchley's office as Sevierville's new city hall, and continue as often as possible. The most recent protests are being conducted along Route 66.
If something isn't done and done quickly, the history and heritage of this amazing and incredibly unique site will be destroyed by the bulldozer's shovel. Gravesites will be desecrated. A community, a county, a state and a nation will lose an important part of its original history and heritage. Fragile wetlands will be destroyed, never to return. The ability for two cultures, the existance of one already endangered, and at least four communities to mutually benefit will be gone.
The site, called Two Rivers Mounds, has a history of habitation and use dating back to as early as 1000 AD. Tennessee State Archeologist Nick Fielder has confirmed that indigenous cultures including Woodland, Mississippian Dallas Phase, and it is believed the Cherokee may have inhabited as recently as 200 years ago. Archeological evidence at the site is apparent through the existence of two burial mounds and a temple mound. Minor archeological surveys have found evidence of as many as 1500 burials on the site, as well as an indication that the site was one end of a Mississippian settlement that stretched along the river for five miles.
From a letter written by a University archeologist in 1988, we have learned that the site is one of the few remaining Dallas phase villages in East Tennessee. Most others have been lost under TVA reservoirs or have been obliterated through land development. In the particular county where this site is located, it is one of only two such remaining sites.
"As an important part of our region's Native American heritage, it is desirable to preserve for future generations. There is even a possibility that the village was that of Tanasqui, visited by the Spaniard Juan Pardo in October 1568; this is the first recorded use of the name that would become that of the State [of Tennessee]."
Historian Sam Maynard confirms that the site is in close proximity to the gravesites of the first colonial inhabitants of the area, giving the site a shared history and heritage and making the site equally important to non-Native people. An original brick structure was moved from another part of the larger property, and was one of the first homes built in the county. This site has a shared history and heritage spanning thousands of years.
Amazingly, the Two Rivers Mounds site has escaped major archeological exploration and excavation, and for the most part has suffered only minor surface grave robbing or looting over the years. Unlike the McMahan Mound located next to the Landmark Inn in Sevierville, the remains of those people buried at Two Rivers Mounds were never removed, never studied, never put on display, never touched. As of this writing, they continue to rest where they were originally laid by their loved ones and friends. This very fact makes the site unique, and of great spiritual, historical and educational value.
The educational value of this site is priceless. Through its preservation and the proposed cultural center, we have an opportunity to educate visitors to the area about all the history of the area. We have an opportunity to present culturally accurate information about the original inhabitants. We have an opportunity to help young curious minds better understand a culture different from their own in a positive and productive way. We have an opportunity through the living descendents of those buried at the Two Rivers Mounds site to gain a perspective into both their culture and their view of the history of this area. Through these opportunities arises the most important opportunity of all - mutual respect.
Green spaces are falling under the bulldozer's shovel at an alarming rate. Profit in the name of progess, development, and economics outweigh the importance of environmental preservation and conservation. The Two Rivers site sits on a prominent point at the convergence of two important rivers in Tennessee. The site includes wetlands, one of the most quickly disappearing land types in the world.
While we humans have the best of intentions, it is entirely foreseeable and even probable that any type of commercial development along the point will negatively impact both waterways, and eliminate the wetlands altogether. More importantly, once a green space is developed, it is impossible to return it to original form. In other words, what you give up for profit today, you can never buy back. It's just gone.
Tourism is a mainstay of the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, and a highly competitive industry. With the increased mobility of America, its imperative to find a draw that makes one area unique to all others. The history and cultures present in an area are the one thing that stands out above all else.
A good portion of the 10.5 million visitors already coming to the area find their way over the mountain to Qualla Boundary and Cherokee, North Carolina. Through careful and conscientious preservation of the Two Rivers Mounds and the development of a well-planned educational and cultural center nearby, it is conceivable and highly probable that the number of the visitors will increase as vacationers plan their trip to or leaving Cherokee to include a visit to Two Rivers Mounds.
Likewise, it's always good to be a good neighbor. Preservation of the site and developing it as a cultural, historical, and educational resource would increase the likelihood that visitors to the area plan a side trip the 38 miles over the mountain to Cherokee. In the long run, both areas would benefit.
All too often burial sites of the original people of this continent are written off as "abandoned cemetaries," or as "archeological sites" rather than the final resting place of people. Remains are labled "artifacts" and funerary objects are labeled antiques, bought and sold through both legitimate and black market sales.
You must ask yourself how you would feel if your great grandparents and/or their belongings were dug up, put on display in a museum, or traded as antiques. The simple fact is that the descendents of those buried on the Two Rivers site are alive today in the many indigenous nations recognized by the federal government. The simple fact is that there are people buried at Two Rivers Mounds. Not antiques. Not artifacts. Not subjects for scientific study. People.
We're asking you to help us save our history. It's your history, too. We're asking you to support the preservation of this site and the protection of those buried there. They are our ancestors, not artifacts. Like your great grandparents, they deserve to rest undisturbed and in peace. Without your help and support, they will be dug up, studied, moved to some other location, and numerous funerary objects will "disappear," only to return via a black market sale. Some will be destroyed altogether.
Rather than allow a private person to develop this site inappropriately, we propose the following:
the site be set aside as a national historic landmark
the site be maintained as a green space and/or conservation trust
we all work together to acquire an additional four lots adjacent to the
property on which a cultural and educational center relevant to the original
inhabitants and history of this area could be built
the center be promoted as a starting point for an historical and cultural
journey through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky
Mountains that would culminate in Cherokee, North Carolina on the Qualla
that those buried on the site be allowed to remain there untouched, undisturbed, unexplored, unstudied, at peace
On October 10, 2004, The Elder Council of the Manataka American Indian Council unanimously voted to endorse this worthwhile effort. We encourage you to help any way you can. Walk the Talk.
We need to collect literally thousands of signatures protesting the development and destruction of the mound site. We need to be able to carry in boxes of documents showing not only resistance to this desecration here in Tennessee, but all over the country from all walks of life for all of the values - respect, history, education, environmental - we have presented. We need to show that no amount of money can purchase the value of this property as it sits today - undisturbed, untouched, free from intentional violation.
Sign the "Save the Two Rivers Mounds Petition" today. Visit http://www.petitiononline.com/trmsuprt/ and show your support. Walk the talk.
In our efforts to stop development of the Two Rivers Mounds site frequent protests are conducted in the Sevierville area. If you would like to join in the protest line, please send your contact information to tworivers at tnaim.org or call 865-448-1083.
Write a letter to key city and county officials urging them to assist in seeing this site protected and left undisturbed. A sample letter and addresses are provided at: tworivers at tnaim.org
Send a donation to the Save Two Rivers Fund:
c/o Gary Woods Photography
2376 Business Center Circle
Sevierville, TN 37876
Online donations are being accepted on our behalf by Wisdom Keepers through PayPal.com, a secure online transaction service. To make a secure online donation please go to: http://tworivers.tnaim.org./funds.html Send no funds to Manataka.
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