John Skibiski: Why does the city remains silent about discovery of artifacts

  • Tip of a Pen Mike Watson Images

Published: 9/28/2020 11:14:36 AM

A remarkable discovery of Native American artifacts was made nearly a year ago in Northampton, estimated at 8,000-10,000 years old by an archaeological team noting its rarity, and thereby recognizing the site’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

Although city officials have been formally informed, including public appeals, and provided with a signed petition of over 55,000 people requesting site preservation, no elected city official, associate, member of the planning department, or even the historical commission has ever reached out or made a single public comment recognizing the discovery as a treasured opportunity for preserving that hallowed site of cultural and historical information about our early Native American residents who lived here around 6000 BC.

That’s incredible. Total silence by all has prevailed. No inquiry, no recognition of efforts from pleading citizens, no public comment about why the city refuses to declare a position for preservation, no committee appointed to even discuss any need for preserving the discovered Native American artifacts and no response to a submitted petition.

Is this the way it is supposed to be? The city should be celebrating the rare discoveries and not offering its blessings by waiting silently, thereby condoning bulldozer destruction of the site for a contested alternate roadway.

The city has pledged in the past and obligated itself not only to preserve such cultural historical opportunities but to lead in that effort, regarding “public or private actions or inactions.” This has not happened and the complete avoidance of comment to the public is not considered best practices nor transparency.

Why has there been absolute silence by the city about protecting Native American history? The discovery made on private land is a city issue. Will silence be the city’s historical legacy?

Bulldozers are on hold, awaiting to plow through the site of hearths, artifacts and probably ritual effects still buried. Native American groups have visited the site to pay respects and pray as they have concerns for preservation. Why has our city leadership not shown any interest to respond to the public’s appeals, while encouraging public input?

Social justice reforms today are actively being reevaluated including for the indigenous Native Americans. I feel Northampton can do better to recognize and respect our Native Americans presently overwhelmed by worldly immigrants.

John Skibiski



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