Martha Spiegelman: Northampton should step up, honor Indigenous site 

  • Top view thirties retro writers desk with typewriter on old wooden background table top. mactrunk

Published: 10/19/2020 3:51:20 PM

What irony, how shameful, that the City of Northampton, having declared in 2016 that Oct. 12th is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is now party to the destruction of an archaic site at Hatfield Street.

The city has heedlessly bought into a plan to completely eradicate the site, which contains artifacts that may be 10,000 years old, for a reason so inconsequential, a traffic circle at Hatfield Street and North King Street, when the traffic problem can be solved by a conventional traffic light, and at a comparatively low cost. An archaeologist for the recent state report about the site said, it is “incredibly rare,” and, further, “of regional importance to understand that time period.”

An extensive archeological exploration of the site, possibly unique, may uncover many more artifacts. If this site becomes paved over by a traffic circle, the loss is forever, and all due to a blip of so-called “progress.”

Most crucial, several American Indian tribes state that they want the site preserved. After all, Northampton history begins only a couple of hundred years ago whereas the Indigenous peoples were in this territory many thousands of years before.

How is it that only the colonial Europeans have a right to a history? The fact of the Narragansett Indian Tribe urging site preservation may carry the weight to stop the obliteration of history, because it is a federally-recognized American Indian tribe, guaranteed a role in procedures under the National Historic Preservation Act.

Northampton, in recent times, declared that the city should “learn about the historical abuses and continuing struggles of indigenous nations” and “celebrate the magnificent foundations of this land upon which our city, state, and country were built.” The city ought to be leading to save this fundamental heritage. Instead, it seems determined to abet its destruction.

Indeed, it is a human rights concern. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights ... and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). That is how the Northampton officers should act: in brotherhood with Indigenous peoples and all the community.

Martha Spiegelman

Amherst

Coordinator, local chapter of Amnesty International USA




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