North Smithfield, RI (rushprnews) May 22, 2007 -Â Development threatens the future of Rock Piles estimated by archaeologist and URI Professor Dr. Frederick F. Meli as spanning at least 230 acres (93 hectares) and has both North Smithfield officials and Indians from that stateâ€™s oldest recognized tribe concerned.
The Seaconke Wampanoag tribe claims the piles are a war memorial and sacred burial place kept hidden for centuries.Â The tribe claims it is as important to them as Arlington National Cemetery is to the United States.Historians, state officials, private developers and tribal leaders in Rhode Island agree that Nipsachuck woods in North Smithfield is culturally and historically significant.Â
Despite this historic significance, Narragansett Improvement Co. has said they will press on with plans to build a 122-lot housing project over 200 acres (80-hectares) in the area near the Massachusetts border.The company claims their hired archaeologist studied the stones and concluded they were likely left in piles by early European settlers who built a network of stone walls in the area.Â Â “I don’t believe any of these Indian artifacts are on my land,” Reuters reports company president John Everson as saying.Â “The whole area is very stony.”
However Dr. Meli, who is working for the townâ€™s Conservation Commission informed the town council that his check of records for the two mounds sites showed no history of farming there.Â “The records show they only took wood out of there and used their water rights,” he said.
The Seaconke Wampanoag historian has advised since the story broke that the restrictive deed for that land contained specific covenants limiting its use to grazing cattle and is specific that houses not be built on it.Â The deed also allowed Indians to remain on that land but they were required to wall up their fields from the English cattle.Â â€œThose covenants regarding development were in place for a reason, and now you know why,â€ the historian said citing the deed recorded at RI Colony Records 1, 33.
Â “Any title researcher can verify this restriction,” he said. The Rhode Island Seaconke Wampanoag web site has more information on this story and is located at www.seaconkewampanoag.com or www.thanksgivingtribe.com.Â Â -30 –
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