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State, tribes negotiating over burial site at road project

State Wire
Published Aug 14, 2002

MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) - A burial site found in the middle of a proposed highway interchange is the subject of continuing talks between state and tribal officials.

Curt Neuhauser, a Department of Transportation project manager, declined to comment about the report that the site is near U.S. 12 in Dane County, saying the Indian tribes involved in the talks didn't want the location publicized. "We are negotiating with them. That is all I can say at this time," Neuhauser said.

He also would not say if proposals to deal with the grave site would add to the cost of the nearly $100 million expansion, including a four-lane highway between Middleton and Sauk City.

The burial site reportedly was discovered nearly a year ago during the DOT's examination of an archaeological survey. It is thought to be a burial site of the Iowa Sac and Fox Nation, now headquartered in Oklahoma.

DOT officials have held two meetings with representatives of Wisconsin tribes and representatives of the Iowa Sac and Fox.

During a July 18 meeting, the DOT suggested several options, including building a bridge across the site or building a vault to protect the site. It was also suggested that the interchange be reconfigured so that the burial site would be in the median of an off-ramp.

Representatives of the Sac and Fox, the Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi and Oneida were to take the options back to their tribal leaders for discussion. Tribal representatives were not available Wednesday evening when The Associated Press tried to reach them to comment.

Brett Hulsey, a representative for the Iowa Sac and Fox tribe, said in an e-mail that tribal members didn't like any of the proposals and called the vault idea "horrid."

"All of the DOT's ideas are bad," Hulsey said. "They show disrespect for the importance of this site and now they (DOT) want the tribes to rush into making a decision. Our proposal is that they not build at all and go back and fix the highway to meet their safety needs."

Patrick Fernan, deputy director of District 1 for the Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that state officials were disappointed others had publicized the negotiations and revealed the location of the site.

State and tribal officials had agreed to keep the details confidential, and the state had kept it's promise not to disclose them, he said.

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