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Alabama Tribe Opposes School Relocation

The possible relocation of an Alabama school has the United Cherokee Ani Yun Wiya Nation, a state recognized tribe, worried about the relocation site.
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The possible relocation of an Alabama school has the United Cherokee Ani Yun Wiya Nation, a state recognized tribe, worried about the relocation site.

Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama is currently located on Baily Cove Road, but administrators proposed rebuilding it on a 60-acre plot off of Weatherly Road.

“We know that there are human remains there. My ancestors,” Lowrey Hesse, the tribe’s vice principal chief, said February 5 during a news conference, reported AL.com. “The old adage goes, ‘Do you want your own grandmother dug up?’ That’s the way we feel, except we’re a little closer to the issue than most average Americans.”

The Ani Yun Wiya Nation isn’t the only group looking to protect the site. Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research released the results of a survey it conducted on behalf of the Byrd Springs Rod and Gun Club in January in which the research group’s director and principal investigator, Hunter Johnson, said there are at least five archaeological sites that would be affected if the Weatherly Road site was developed, reported AL.com.

“(TVAR) recommends that all the sites within the proposed development be evaluated by a qualified archaeologist in regard to site preservation and (National Register of Historic Places) status prior to any further disturbances,” Johnson wrote in the report. “Otherwise, a historic resource potentially significant to improving our understanding of American history and prehistory could be irretrievably lost during the course of construction activities on the site.”

The Ani Yun Wiya Nation, a state recognized tribe, handed out a plethora of information at the news conference including a January 11 letter from Alabama state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn to Huntsville Superintendent Casey Wardynski. That letter details three Native American sites on the Weatherly Road land that contain human remains. The state actually has a law against disturbing any human remains—the Alabama Burial Act was signed in 2010 and charges anyone guilty of disturbing remains with a misdemeanor.

According to AL.com, a school district spokesman said research into the Weatherly Road site was still ongoing.