By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tuckasegee Town, a historic Cherokee site, is in danger according to Cherrie Moses whose family has owned the property where the site is located for the past 120 years. She is concerned that a proposed bridge widening will damage the site and that the artifacts found will either be destroyed or sent out of the area.
“My family has not disturbed the area knowing that some of the artifacts have laid there for thousands of years,” said Moses. “We consider this sacred ground.”
Her concerns surround a plan by the NCDOT to widen Bridge #39 over the East Fork Tuckasegee River on NC Highway 107. The project is slated to cost $3.35 million and could start this time next year according to information obtained by the NCDOT.
“We were never involved in any of the discussions or litigations with the many diverse offices because NCDOT’s regulations prevent any property owner from being involved,” commented Moses. “We were totally left out of the loop. Property owners have some rights.”
Russell Townsend, EBCI tribal historic preservation officer, related, “We don’t expect adverse impact at the existing site.” He said the project has been in the planning stages for years and that the initial archaeology was done by Wake Forest University in the early 1990s.
“The plan now is that they’re going to stay in the very narrow corridor and replace the bridge one lane at a time so that the impacts are going to be very minimal,” said Townsend who said there are archaeological materials in the area but not in that particular area. “If they start talking about widening all of NC107, we’d be a whole lot more concerned.”
Townsend said his office and the office of the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Offices should both receive a data recovery plan from NCDOT in the next couple of months. He said that when he was last briefed on the project, “The proposed construction would not impact any significant archaeological resources or any burials.”
He said this is not the same situation as the Macon County Airport expansion.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians signed a Memorandum of Agreement in March 2009, along with officials from the Federal Highway Administration, and N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, dealing with the archaeology from the site and all parties agreed to how data recovery efforts would be handled.
Townsend related Tuckasegee “is considered a historic Cherokee town site” which thrived in the early 18th century and contains Woodland era and archaic artifacts.
Moses related that one of her main concerns involves the handling of artifacts. “We don’t want them to be sent hundreds of miles away. They should stay in the area.”