“Once they dismantle them, that is a desecration. All their reconstruction is a replica work of art, not a spiritual stone feature.” Doug Harris, Narragansett Tribe
Excerpt: Make way for the gas pipeline
One issue central to the native community in New England are sacred ceremonial stones along the path of the Tennessee Gas pipeline that are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. In Sandisfield, most of the stones that were identified have been destroyed, though some were preserved by Kinder Morgan.
“The eastern tribes utilized the ceremonial stone features a part of their ceremonies calling to the spirit of our mother, the Earth, to bring balance and harmony,” Narragansett Indian Tribe Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Doug Harris said. “From that, we interpret that it’s a place where someone may have been killed either by an animal or another human. That area, although a person’s remains may have been taken elsewhere for burial or cremation, would have been greatly traumatized in spirit. In order to bring balance and harmony back to that traumatized area one of the forms was to make prayer in the form of stones calling on the spirit energy of our mother, the Earth.”
Sara Hughes, a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan, confirmed that 13 of 73 ceremonial stone features were relocated. The remaining 60 ceremonial stones were destroyed.
“We were required to relocate 13 after adapting our construction approach to accommodate and avoid the majority of the structures,” she said. “The stone features that remained in place have been protected with signage and fencing during construction activities, and are being closely monitored on a daily basis … The features have been securely stored and will be moved back to their original location and orientation when project restoration occurs. We expect to complete the restoration process and place the project into service by Nov. 1.”
Harris said he was given the opportunity to monitor the process, but refused because he considered it sacrilege.
“They would document them, store them, and then reconstruct them,” he said. “They seemed to feel that this was acceptable and I explained to them that once they dismantle them, that is desecration. All their reconstruction is a replica work of art, not a spiritual stone feature.”
Anne Marie Garti, an attorney representing the Narragansett Indian Tribe, said FERC did not allow the Tribe’s Historic Office to examine the sites under the National Historic Preservation. FERC gave the go ahead for the project to Tennessee Gas, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, before that took place.
“The Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office requested rehearing of an order when the staff person at FERC gave the pipeline company an order to proceed,” she said. “And that order, we believe, was not legally issued because the steps that were supposed to have taken under the National Historic Preservation Act had not taken place. FERC had said they would make sure that all the stuff had taken place before the project could proceed when they issued their original order in March 16, 2016. There were all these conditions, one of the conditions was compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.”
The tribe isn’t seeking damages, but wants a re-hearing to make sure that a mistake such as this never happens again, Harris said.
“What we want to draw attention to in the future must happen, otherwise tribal rights are abrogated and the law means nothing, if in fact it is not practiced,” he said. “We are essentially drawing FERC’s attention and the public’s attention to the fact that the National Historic Preservation Act has not been followed and therefore the rights of the tribe has not been allowed. That should not be the standard operating procedure going forward.”
Garti said FERC typically waits until a pipeline is completed before a re-hearing takes place.
“And then they go in and try to say that it’s moot; that it no longer matters, but the courts don’t buy that because it’s very hard to get an injury just thrown out of court like that … It’s been taking about a year.”
The ancient culture of the Americas is something that everyone in the country should be willing to preserve, not just people with Native American ancestry, he said.
“There is a responsibility of not only tribes to step forward and to point to these issues, but the public in general — our partners in sustaining and protecting that of which is antiquity,” Harris said.
NOTE: Destroyed? How would this area react if a colonial church and cemetery were destroyed? Once I compose myself and stop crying, I will draft a letter to Kinder Morgan. LT who lives here in Pocumtuck Territory.