by Nancy Thomas
Copyright © 1999 NLThomas
Knoxville, TN - The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has proposed a parkway to link the University's agriculture and main campuses but there is a problem, an Indian Burial Mound, believed to be the ancestors of the Cherokee People, stands in the path. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is planning the project.
The plans are still being drawn, said Luanne Grandinetti, spokeswoman for the TDOT, so it is not yet known whether the parkway will go through the mound or around it. It's too early to say if the plans might be altered, "but you never know how these things are going to work out," Grandinetti added. The TDOT spokesperson said that preservationists are asking for the mound to be protected but this will probably not stop the parkway's construction, and stated, "we will do all we can to address this situation."
The project, entails a four lane road, includes a 100 foot long bridge, and has been criticized as a back room political deal that is a waste of millions of dollars. Those opposed to the TDOT project have proposed a smaller solution that would also be less likely to increase thru traffic on the campuses. Officials of the TDOT said the states money would be best used for a parkway because it would address the traffic needs of the future. University officials said the project will continue despite any opposition to it.
The University's Historic Preservation Committee and the Cherokee Indians are strongly urging that the burial mound be protected. The Cherokee Indians believe they are the descendants of the Indians buried in the mound. Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Joyce Dugan, wrote to UT President Joe Johnson, "I am committed to the continued protection of our ancestral burials and hope the University of Tennessee will rethink any actions which would lead to their destruction."
President Johnson said, "I would certainly think that everybody would do everything to preserve the Indian mound." Johnson is planning to pass Chief Dugan's thoughts along to the parkway's designers. The UT President believes that the only mound on campus, will be protected.
It is a cemetery probably dating back at least 1,000 years, according to Charles H. Faulker, an Anthropology Professor on the University's Historic Preservation Committee. Faulker said that the mound is one of the few in East Tennessee that has not been disturbed but has not escaped being closed in by development. The mound is at the corner of Center and Chapman drives. Faulker stated, "the two streets that go by the mound now are close enough, and if that's expanded, it's going to encroach further."
According to Betsey Creekmore, Chairperson of the Preservation Committee, the mound is on the National Register of Historic Places but that does not mean it is automatically protected from destruction. The Preservation Committee is not recommending the road project be stopped. Speaking of the mound, Creekmore said, "the committee feels this is a very important aspect of the campus and it's important to our continuing preservation of Native American artifacts and relics." Creekmore is also the University's Associate Vice Chancellor for Space and Facilities.
John Nolt believes if the parkway was scaled down, reduced to two lanes, the mound would be protected and much of the opposition would disappear. Nolt is a Philosophy Professor and the spokesperson for Citizens for a Pedestrian-Friendly Campus.
Paths to related sites:
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Department of Transportation
Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs
The official home page of the Cherokee Nation
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians