Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) approves resolution opposing construction at Moccasin Bend

by Apr 5, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) has passed a resolution opposing new construction at a Tennessee site that is historically and culturally significant to Cherokee people.  Res. No. 175 (2024) was passed unanimously during the regular Dinilawigi session on Thursday, April 4.

Ugvwiyuhi (Principal Chief) Michell Hicks said in discussion on the legislation during Thursday’s session, “It’s been an ongoing issue…I think we need to be as strong as we possibly can about protecting historic sites in any way that we possibly can.”

Res. No. 175 was submitted by Ugvwiyuhi Hicks, Taline Ugvwiyu (Vice Chief) Alan B. Ensley, and Dinilawigi (Tribal Council).

The legislation describes the historical significance of the area to the EBCI.  “Historians and archaeologists believe the first contact between Europeans and American Indians in the area was during the year 1513, and American Indians occupied the Tennessee River peninsula known as Moccasin Bend for thousands of years, and there is evidence of ancient villages and burial mounds at the site.”

It continues, “In the early 1800s, travelers crossed the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend by using Brown’s Ferry which was owned and operated by the Brown family who were mixed (Cherokee and European) ancestry, and in 1805 the United States government built what is known as the ‘Federal Road’ across Moccasin Bend, at the site of Brown’s Ferry, and this road is well-documented as being a part of the Trail of Tears.”

The legislation states, “…the Tribe (EBCI) opposes new construction activities on the Tennessee River peninsula known as Moccasin Bend, in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and the Tribe supports efforts to present Moccasin Bend’s natural, historic, and cultural resources.”

According to the legislation, “…efforts to preserve Moccasin Bend began in the early 20th century with a vision that it would become a National Park.  That effort was abandoned in 1953 by Tennessee Governor Frank Clements, and Moccasin Bend has seen multiple developments since then: the State of Tennessee built the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute there in 1961; and local officials and businesses have built a law enforcement firearms training range, radio towers, a golf course, and a wastewater treatment facility on Moccasin Bend.”

In September 2023, the Tennessee Building Commission approved a plan for a $260 million replacement facility for the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute.

A group known as National Park Partners has released a statement on this plan stating that they believe that the new facility can be built as well as protecting the Moccasin Bend historical area.  “We do not accept the State of Tennessee’s proposal to build the new mental health hospital on its current campus, which lies within a National Historic Landmark boundary and is completely surrounded by a National Park site meant for public benefit.  While a state legislative committee approved the concept of new construction on Moccasin Bend to rebuild the now 61-year-old hospital, that decision can and must be reversed.”

The group has started an online petition at: https://www.change.org/p/save-moccasin-bend

The petition states in part, “Moccasin Bend holds 12,000 years of human history and is one of Chattanooga’s most treasured natural and cultural landmarks.  Generations have fought to preserve its incredible resources, leading to designations like the National Historic Landmark status in 1986.  Building a new mental health institute on Moccasin Bend would irreparably damage this historic site.”

An archaeological study, of the site where the new construction is planned, began in October 2023.