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Indian tribe fear pipe's move threatens burial grounds

8/17/2002 08:53

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (AP) "An Indian tribe is concerned that the burial of a pipe could disturb ancient burial grounds on this southern island. " ____________________________________________________________ ml

By Associated Press, 8/17/2002 08:53JAMESTOWN, R.I. (AP) An Indian tribe is concerned that the burial of a pipe could disturb ancient burial grounds on this southern island. Town officials plan to inter a 9,000-foot-long pipe to alleviate a chronic water shortage for about 3,000 customers half of Conanicut Island's population. But Narragansett Indian leaders fear burying the pipe will spur development, and could threaten burial sites dotting the 9.5-mile-long island. Work is expected to begin in two weeks. The Public Archaeology Laboratory will conduct a dig along the route before the pipe is laid. ''With more water comes more development,'' John Brown, the tribe's historic preservation officer, told The Providence Journal for its Saturday editions. ''And once they start building, they're going to hit more tribal burial sites.'' To protect hidden graves, the tribe wants the town to require builders to conduct archaeological digs before they break ground on new homes. The digs could cost builders several thousand dollars more per site. The pipe to be buried runs between South Pond and the town's reservoir. ''Without it we face a serious water crisis,'' said Jamestown Town Administrator Maryanne Crawford. If the town doesn't protect the sites, the tribe may go to court to reclaim the island, said Brown, adding the Narragansetts preceded colonists as inhabitants. ''The tribe never gave up its rights to that land,'' Brown said. ''We did not give up our sacred places.'' Crawford said she has talked to Brown. Any agreement may be too broad and could interfere with the rights of private property owners, she said. Archaeologists and builders have in past years uncovered early remains and artifacts in Jamestown, which was incorporated in 1678. Some experts consider Jamestown to be New England's largest Indian burial site. The island has battled water shortages for a decade. In 1993, the shortage was so severe the National Guard was called in to dump water into the reservoir. This year, the reservoir is 2 feet below its high mark. Residents have been asked to avoid outdoor watering.

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