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Ojibwe band may regain ancestors' burial ground

Posted to NDN AIM by Erthavengr

Monday, March 31, 2003

Ojibwe band may regain ancestors' burial ground SURPLUS PROPERTY: The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa may gain control of 18 acres at the end of Wisconsin Point that it lost in 1918.


Nearly 90 years after their forebears were evicted from Wisconsin Point, Ojibwe Indians may regain control over a small part of the land.

If successful, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa might use the former U.S. Army Corps of Engineer property at the end of Wisconsin Point as a cemetery for human remains removed from the point in 1918.

The remains were reburied in a mass grave in Superior's St. Francis Cemetery.

"If we are successful in getting the property back, we would give due consideration for a reburial back on Wisconsin Point for those individuals that were put in that mass grave," said Band Chairman Robert "Sonny" Peacock. "And we would like to keep that area as a historical site, probably educational as well."

The Army declared the 18.2-acre property to be surplus late in 2002. Earlier this year, the General Services Administration, which will dispose of the property, asked other federal agencies if they wanted the land.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs responded in March that it wants to obtain the property and hold it in trust for the Fond du Lac Band. No money would change hands if the transaction advances.

The bureau will submit a formal application for the property to the General Serv- ices Administration later this month, BIA environmental scientist Herb Nelson said. The General Services Administration will review the application when it arrives.

"If it's complete, we approve it, and the property is transferred," said General Services Administration real estate specialist Arthur Ullenberg.

The property includes two houses, a four-bay garage and a dock that were part of a former U.S. lighthouse station built about 1912. The Corps would reserve an easement on 3.33 acres to allow for work on the road and shipping channel.

The federal government has owned the property since it was condemned in 1901. The Ojibwe lost the rest of Wisconsin Point about 1918 in a dispute with the Interstate Railroad Co.

In 1914, area Ojibwe petitioned President Woodrow Wilson and Indian Commissioner Cato Sells for help in the ownership dispute.

"We do with horror contemplate being torn from the property of our fathers on Wisconsin Point, our dear honored dead removed and the sacred cemetery desecrated," they wrote. "Seven generations and more lie buried in this cemetery, including Chief O-sa-gie."

But corporate interests prevailed, and the Ojibwe and some of their graves were moved.

"We found one paper that was written by a young man who was a water boy out there when they were moving the cemetery," Superior Area Indian Center President Robert Miller said. "They only moved the graves that were well-marked. Out of about 300 bodies that were out there, they moved about 180. My grandmother knew where a lot were."

Miller's grandmother was raised on the point. He said there were about seven homes in the village when its residents were evicted.

Today, some people still consider the area to be sacred. Graves remain under the point's road and one of its parking lots, said Miller, who opposes talk to either expand the road or extend the Osaugie Trail onto the point.

The paved bike trail is named for a Fond du Lac leader, the Chief O-sa-gie of the 1914 petition.

Peacock said there is no timetable for the possible movement of graves back to the point if the band regains control of the land.

"That's a technical point, a cultural religious point that I can't even approach," he said. "I don't know what the medicine people would say on something like that. I don't know what the process would be."

Because federal agencies get the first chance to obtain surplus federal property, the Bureau of Indian Affairs application on behalf of the Fond du Lac Band likely dashes the University of Wisconsin-Superior's desire to obtain the land for itself.

UWS's Lake Superior Research Institute has talked about using the area for natural and cultural education.

The UWS institute operates the research vessel L.L. Smith, which is also used for education. UWS once leased the Wisconsin Point property but let the lease lapse during a budget crunch in 1986. The L.L. Smith now docks in Minnesota.

"We understand it's property that's important to the tribe, and would be satisfied if they gain ownership of it," UWS spokeswoman Beth George said.

Ancient burials found at development site

Posted to NDN AIM by Ishgooda

AGNES DIGGS Staff Writer

TEMECULA ---- Grading at a local development site has been halted after heavy equipment unearthed artifacts and human remains from what is presumed to be an Indian burial site.

A portion of the approximately 32 acres of the mixed-use residential and commercial project along Highway 79 South has been cordoned off while the developer, city officials and representatives of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians come to terms on how to proceed.

About a month ago, tribal monitors found scattered human bone fragments as they examined the excavated earth. During the past three weeks, remains of seven humans, including an intact infant, were found in their original place. The tribe is hoping for some project design changes that would protect the burial sites, which could date back to the late 1700s and the arrival of the Spanish.

Reburying the remains elsewhere is not an option, because of traditional beliefs, said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman. Calling it a rare find, Dave Hogan, principal planner for the city of Temecula, said a discovery of this magnitude was a surprise to everybody. That it involved human remains complicates matters, Hogan said.

"There's a religious and cultural component to this," Hogan said. "It's part of (the Pechanga) heritage which the tribe is trying to preserve. That's something that at the city we are aware of and we support their concerns."

Hogan said the developer is not happy about the find but is trying to come to an agreement on disposition of the remains. The property owner, David Esoldi of Temecula Creek Village LLD did not return phone calls made late Friday.

Macarro confirmed that the developer agreed to use less destructive machinery to do the digging once the remains had been found.

The California Environmental Quality Act, which requires an environmental impact report calls for closure once the report has been filed. The loophole is that the sites were discovered after the approvals had been given.

"The way the law is written leaves no remedies under (the act), which is supposed to protect these sacred sites," said Laura Miranda, an attorney representing the tribe. If the information had been available before the approval, the project might not have been approved by the government, she said.

Once the bones were found, the process became legal as well as cultural. They are sent to the county coroner to determine if they are modern, Western or Indian. Once that determination is made, he notifies the Native American Heritage Commission, which then contacts the most likely descendant ---- in this case the Pechanga.

The tribe has a contractual agreement with the developer that sets forth its rights, including wording on the disposition of remains, Miranda said. The next step, mediation, is expected to begin in a few weeks and will include the Heritage Commission, she said.

Pechanga is not against development generally," Miranda said. "It's just that we're trying to protect our culture and practice our religion, and this is what it boils down to ---- tribal self-governance and the Indians' right to practice their religion."

Contact staff writer Agnes Diggs at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 2621, or [email protected]

Ancient skull found in police raid turned over to Idaho tribe

Posted to NDN AIM by Erthavenger

Friday, April 11, 2003

(04-11) 12:14 PDT COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) --

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is preparing a final resting place for the ancient skull of an Indian woman found during a police raid.

The skull, missing its lower jaw, was found Feb. 20 in a closet, tucked inside a motorcycle helmet as police served a warrant in the house.

Investigators sent the skull to Kootenai County Coroner Dr. Robert West, who immediately was struck by its apparent age and sent it to Eastern Washington University for more precise identification by anthropologists.

Sarah Keller, chairwoman of the university's anthropology department, determined that it belonged to an American Indian woman, most likely in her mid-30s but somewhere between 25 and 40 years old, who ate a diet of stone-ground foods.

Keller was not able to pinpoint the era in which the woman lived, only that it was not recent. She also was unable to determine tribal affiliation.

Richard Mullen, who handles cultural issues for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, accepted the skull from Sgt. Don Ashenbrenner on Thursday.

"With the help of police, this woman was treated humanely and with dignity," Mullen said. "She was somebody's mother and somebody's sister, and that's how we look at it."

Coeur d'Alene police said three men arrested at the house denied any knowledge of the skull.

Gov. Davis signs legislation to protect Quechan sacred site

Posted to NDN AIM by Karen McCormick

Posted: April 14, 2003 - 10:57am EST
by: James May / Indian Country Today

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In a signing ceremony staged at his capitol office, California Gov. Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 22 into law, which is aimed to protect a Quechan tribal sacred area from a proposed nearby open pit gold mine.

"We're sending a message that sacred sites are more important than gold," said Gov. Davis in a short speech that preceded the actual signing of the bill.

The signing ceremony included tribal officials as well as state legislators who had worked on the bill, including its author Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto.

The bill is the result of several months' effort by the Davis administration to protect the Quechan site after he had vetoed a more broadly based sacred sites protection bill last year. After vetoing that bill Gov. Davis singled out the Quechan tribe and said he would specifically work to protect that site.

The language of the bill essentially deals directly with open pit mining operations near sacred sites and requires that all such projects be back filled and restored to "pre-mining conditions." The protected area effects an 880-foot deep, one-mile wide open pit, cyanide leaching gold mining operation originally proposed by Reno, Nevada-based Glamis Gold, Ltd in 1994. The proposed project sits about a mile from the Quechan sacred site, which is located in the Indian Pass area of Imperial County.

Essentially this restores a federal decision on mining that was signed by former President Clinton in the closing hours of his administration and was later reversed by the Bush Administration's Department of Interior. It is unclear, however, how the new state law will fare against the federal reversal.

In fact when Davis was questioned during the ceremony whether this was a warning shot to the Bush Administration, Davis recalled the Clinton order and called the current bill a restoration to the former mining regulation.

"California has done what the (federal) Department of Interior won't do, he (Davis) protected our sacred site," said Quechan tribal President Mike Jackson. Jackson had at one point in the preceding months asked Davis if he would stand in front of the bulldozers at the proposed gold mine; an anecdote that Davis wryly recalled during the ceremony.

Though the state had only recently agreed to take up the tribe's cause, Quechan has been fighting the proposal for the past seven years and in the past two has launched a major public relations blitz for their cause. Just last year the tribe's efforts paid off. Shortly before the first, more comprehensive bill was vetoed last year, the Quechan managed to get the site registered as one of the 50 Most Endangered Historic Sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Though the Quechan site is now protected some tough issues regarding sacred site protection remain. Though last year's more comprehensive bill only covered about 75 total acres in California, it was opposed by a variety of business interests and was notable for making some strange political bedfellows that included the decidedly unusual joining of liberal Democrats and social conservatives opposing pro- business conservatives.

Though Davis referred to the Quechan site protection as a triumph over "corporate interests" the Quechan site specifically had fewer opponents because of the relative small scope of this specific project. Coupling this fact is that Glamis Gold, who had proposed the project, is not based in California making the economic impact fairly negligible.

Tougher questions abound in other areas considered sacred to other California tribes. For example last year somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 salmon died on the Klamath River, considered sacred to, among others, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes. Later studies concluded that business interests ranging from logging to farming to urban public utilities were among the culprits that contributed to higher water temperatures and thus lower oxygen levels that resulted in the massive die-off.

When questioned by Indian Country Today as to whether he would be willing to take on the larger corporate interests to protect sacred sites such as the salmon on the Klamath River, the governor responded that he would. When asked what he is specifically doing in this regard, Gov. Davis replied that he was working with tribal representatives from across the state to craft new, more comprehensive sacred site protection and expected to have results in the coming months.

Reprinted under the Fair Use Law: Doctrine of international copyright law.

Agency: River sites need protection
April 19,2003

Agency: River sites need protection
By Andrew Nelson, Associated Press Writer

PIERRE -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should take immediate action to protect graves and other sacred and historic sites along the Missouri River from looting, vandalism and erosion, according to a federal report issued Wednesday.

The corps also should work with states and Indian tribes to develop a permanent program to preserve historic sites and the agency should seek more federal funding for the preservation effort, the report said.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, made the recommendations in a status report on the Corps of Engineers' Historic Preservation Program.

The report deals with the nearly 6,000 miles of Missouri River shoreline in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. The corps operates six dams and the reservoirs created by those dams along the river.

The report says the corps' efforts to protect historic sites along the river are inadequate, but it acknowledges that the agency faces difficulty in protecting thousands of miles of shoreline.

Larry Janis, the cultural-resources program manager for the corps in Omaha, said the agency is already implementing several recommendations made in the report and has been able to increase funding for preservation to $3 million in the past year.

The corps is building partnerships with Indian tribes and is working to improve monitoring and law enforcement along the river, Janis said.

The Advisory Council held a public hearing in Pierre last year to take public comment on its review of the corps' efforts to preserve historic property. Members of Indian tribes urged that more be done to protect burial grounds and other sacred sites along the Missouri River.

Much of the area along the river was flooded when the huge reservoirs were built. As the drought has caused water levels to fall in some reservoirs in recent years, many historic sites have been exposed.

Historic sites along the Missouri include prehistoric and historic Indian villages, graves, forts, battlefields, sites visited by the Lewis and Clark expedition, and other features.

Many endangered sites are important to the heritage and culture of Indian tribes, the report says.

The corps has identified nearly 5,000 archaeological sites and other cultural resources on its land along the Missouri River, but little of that land has been subject to intensive surveys or inspections, according to the report.

Part of the problem is inadequate funding, the report says. The corps estimates a $77 million backlog of historic preservation needs along the Missouri River. Current funding does not allow the corps to develop and implement long-term historic preservation efforts, the report says.

"There is not adequate ... historic funding for the Corps right now," said Paige Hoskinson, an archaeologist with the South Dakota Historic Preservation Office, who had not yet seen the report. "Data recovery for one site can run hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The report recommends several solutions. Adequate funding is required to sustain a competent preservation program, and the corps should build partnerships with states and Indian tribes along the Missouri River to create a permanent program to identify and protect important sites, the document says.

Immediate steps to prevent looting and vandalism should include public education, increased patrols by law officers and coordination with federal prosecutors, the report says. The 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition also can be used to promote tourism and increase public support for preserving sites, the agency recommends.

"Preserving these places will foster heritage tourism which will result in economic and cultural benefits to the region," John L. Nau III, chairman of the Advisory Council, said in a written statement. "We look forward to working in partnership with all involved to better protect and appropriately share our historical treasures."

Nau also said he was encouraged by the corps' recent efforts to improve its management of historical sites along the Missouri.

Ancient Village Located in Illinois

DAMIANSVILLE, Ill. - Digging crews have found hundreds of 1,200-year-old stone arrowheads and pottery fragments buried under an Illinois hillside.

The discovery near this village about 35 miles east of St. Louis represents an important archaeological find, said Brad Koldehoff, a state archaeologist.

"It's a significant site. They discovered a keyhole-shaped house and what appears to be a small village," he said.

"Keyhole" houses are dwellings made of clay and logs with rooms half submerged in the ground. The large, dome-shaped living area at one end was reached by a long, straight, covered entrance, giving rise to the name "keyhole."

Microscopic examination of debris from their ancient garbage pits shows the inhabitants ate venison and turkey, plus what are today considered weeds. One common dish was a sort of pancake made from the seeds of knot weed.

The village dates from the Late Woodland period, from about 600 to 800 A.D., said Koldehoff.

What is learned from the dig will be integrated with knowledge gained from other finds in Illinois in recent years, including the 2001 discovery of 70 handmade ceremonial stone ax heads beneath a field in Shiloh.

The hillside where the artifacts were found last week was chosen for excavation because the landowner wants to sell its dirt to the state as fill for a nearby highway project. State law requires that an archaeological team search for artifacts and excavate any that might be found.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Some activity on Indian burial site OK, judge says

Posted to NDN AIM by Erthavengr

John-John Williams IV
Argus Leader

published: 4/22/2003

A federal judge has ruled that state workers can start building a waste dump site and fish-cleaning area for campers on a parcel of land along the Missouri River that includes a Native American burial site.

Federal District Judge Lawrence Piersol said the state also can resume construction at a second campground location if workers first return fill dirt taken from the original burial site. The judge ordered state officials to notify the Yankton Sioux Tribe when the dirt transfer is scheduled to occur, and to allow time for Native American ceremonies to be conducted there before resuming construction activity later this spring.

Tribal officials criticized Piersol's ruling and will meet as early as Thursday to discuss a possible appeal, according to Mary Wynne, tribal lawyer.

"To build a sewer on top of the remains of ancestors is beyond what the Lakota culture can comprehend," Wynne said. "It creates a large gap between the plaintiffs and the defendants."

The dispute has centered on a state-run campground, called the North Point Recreation Area, located along the Missouri River near Pickstown.

On May 14, 2002, workers were moving dirt from the area to use as fill for campground construction projects when the remains of two children, a woman and other funerary objects were unearthed.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that manages the river, asking a judge to stop work in the area and to order the remains returned to the original burial site.

Piersol issued a preliminary injunction last June, halting the state's construction activity at North Point. The judge set out conditions under which the injunction might be lifted, including a demonstration by the state that its proposed future construction activities would not further damage the area where the burial items were uncovered. Piersol also required the state to examine fill dirt taken from the original burial site for use in the new construction to ensure that it did not contain Native American cultural items.

The state later returned to court asking to be allowed to resume work on a dump station planned on a parcel of land in the disputed area. A state archaeologist said the dirt at that site had "almost no chance" of containing human remains or funerary objects.

Sanitation needs

A lawyer for the state argued that campers need the new sanitation station in order to empty their recreational vehicles' holding tanks before leaving the park. The old dumping station had already been removed and the next nearest station for North Point visitors would be four to six miles away, a state parks official said. North Point attracted 231,000 visitors in 2001, making it the fifth most visited park in South Dakota.

During a hearing on the issue last week, state lawyers also presented an archaeologist's report stating that while dirt taken to the site of a planned campground registration building contained human remains, there was "almost no chance" of remains or artifacts being located in the sewage dump station site.

During the hearing John Guhin, lawyer for the state, also told the judge that a group composed of members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe once had planned to build a resort on the site now in question.

"How can it be sacred land and be developed?" he asked.

Wynne argued the tribe's general council never approved that plan and without that approval, it was incorrect to say the tribe pursued the resort construction plan.

In his order Friday, Piersol said the state must provide written notice to tribal officials of the date when the fill dirt from the original burial site would be returned. After the tribe receives the state's notice, they will have seven days to conduct ceremonies at both sites.

The dispute isn't over, Wynne said. "I believe strongly in the position of the tribe and the powers at work of the ancestors who have come before," she said.

Bonnie Ulrich, who represented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the case, called Piersol's decision fair. She said the original lawsuit, which claims the transfer of Missouri River land from the federal government to the state is unconstitutional, and several legal proceedings will be needed to resolve the matter.

Wynne said the tribe can still ask for permanent protection for the burial site and a nearby area.

She said Piersol also invited the two sides to a mediation session, but the tribe has not agreed to it.

Other burial disputes

Concerns have surfaced in other parts of the state regarding Native American burial sites.

A national historic preservation group last week called Army Corps of Engineers efforts to protect historic sites along the river inadequate, but acknowledged that the thousands of miles of shoreline make that task difficult.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, recommended that the corps take immediate action to protect graves and other sacred sites along the river from erosion, vandalism and looting. The group also urged the corps to work with the state and tribes to develop a permanent program to preserve the sites and seek more federal funding for preservation.

Corps officials said they already are implementing several of the group's recommendations and have increased funding for preservation to $3 million in the past year.

Much of the area along the Missouri River was flooded when the federal government built reservoirs in the 1950s. The drought has caused water levels to fall even lowers in recent years, exposing the old burial sites.

Faith Spotted Eagle, Yankton Sioux Tribal member, said it is unfathomable that a court or agency would use statistics and archaeological grids to prove a burial ground is insignificant.

"It shows how far the state (and) Game, Fish and Parks (department) is disconnected and numb from a horror that has already happened and continues to happen to our ancestors," she said.

"Perhaps if the tribe cleaned fish and threw the guts on the military cemetery at Fort Randall, paved the parking lot and had a picnic on the soldiers' graves, our point would be made," Spotted Eagle said. "The spiritual immaturity of the corps and the state is clearly evident."

Slaves' Graves, Indian Site At Heart of Land Dispute

Slaves' Graves, Indian Site At Heart of Land Dispute

Examiner Ponders Developer's Request for Change in Zoning

By Susan Gervasi
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 24, 2003; Page PG16

On a rainy June morning last year, Fort Washington resident Dawn Davit watched in horror from Riverview Road as a developer's bulldozer unearthed five graves in a family cemetery undisturbed since the 1820s.

"I was really just heartbroken," Davit said. A resident of the neighborhood for 33 years, she is president of Potomac Valley Citizens Association and is opposed to residential development of the Potomac River tract that spans about 23 acres. There the remains of prominent Prince George's County landowner Dennis Lyles and his four young children were buried.

"I just visualize their mother burying four of them in six months and putting them in that beautiful spot and them being so crudely extracted with no dignity," Davit said. "It still bothers me."

With no physical remains evident after the excavation, some earth from each grave was soon ceremonially reburied in a local churchyard. But the dispute persists between neighbors and developer Leo Bruso of Upper Marlboro, who wants to build "executive style" homes on the rolling grassy pasture with sweeping river views.

The neighbors also insist that slave graves may have been on the property and that it had been the site of a historically significant Native American settlement. Even the National Park Service has weighed in, expressing skepticism about Bruso's plans.

Bruso, who since 1974 has developed commercial and residential property in Maryland -- such as Clinton's New England Estates -- is unimpressed and said he will persevere.

"She's just trying to drag this out to the point where I'm saying that I'm going away," said Bruso, who recently attended an Upper Marlboro hearing to seek a zoning change to build four waterfront homes and a dock on about 10 acres of the land. "Well, I'm not going away."

Nor, apparently, are opponents of Bruso's planned "Rivers Edge" subdivision. They include the National Park Service, which manages several historic sites in the area and objected at the hearing to Bruso's plans.

"We believe there are multiple strong reasons that this property should not be subject to further modification of its current zoning and Chesapeake Bay Critical Area status," wrote John Hale, National Capital Parks-East superintendent, in a letter read at the hearing by a Park Service official.

Bruso wants a zoning change because about 13 waterfront acres of the property are categorized as a critical area "resource conservation" zone, which allows only one house per 20 acres. Bruso hopes to have about 10 acres of the protected section recategorized as "limited development," which would enable him to build one house per acre, which is allowed on the rest of the tract.

Hale's letter expressed concern about the project's environmental impact. "Multiple known and suspected historic and archaeological resources on this property" could be at "grave risk" if the development goes forward, the letter said.

Bruso disputes the notion that his land is historically or archaeologically significant, and he objects to Park Service involvement.

"Show me where [the Park Service] came in on other projects and sent a staff person [or] weighed in on any other case," he said after the hearing.

A decision on the Critical Area status by zoning hearing examiner Maurene Epps Webb is expected in a few months. The issue then goes to the Prince George's County Council, sitting as a zoning body, for a decision.

In a separate opinion last February about the entire parcel's possible historic status, Epps Webb suggested that the issue be returned to the Prince George's County Historic Preservation Commission for a second look.

That came after a commission ruling in December 2001 -- sought by Bruso -- said the entire site had been mistakenly classified by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission as a historic resource. The error was made because a port known as "Tent Landing" was thought to have been there but wasn't.

For Bruso, this ruling eased the path to development. After a subsequent court fight with then-Prince George's State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson, now the county executive, Bruso also won the right to move the Lyles family graves.

But neighbors, who still refer to the property as Tent Landing, contended that the parcel's possible Native American and African American history, which the commission declined to consider, should have been discussed at the hearing.

Moe Thomas Jr., who lives in the county's Chapel Hill neighborhood and is a former Tuskegee Airman and expert in local African American history, said Ed Contee, an African American and former neighborhood resident who was 109 at his death in 1971, told him that slaves were buried on the property.

"Ed Contee told me specifically that unmarked slave gravesites were adjacent to the white Lyles graves," said Thomas, who sad he believes that these slave remains were part of a "second cemetery" shown by some maps as being on the land.

The second cemetery has been hotly contested. After Bruso complained, an official of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which shows two cemeteries on a map of the area, agreed that the "second cemetery" was put on the map erroneously and would be deleted.

Neighbors have asked the USGS to reconsider, saying other resources such as a 1982 historic site survey and map published by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission have shown two cemeteries.

Thomas, who said two cemeteries also appear on local aeronautical maps, noted that because of the importance of oral tradition in preserving African American history, he has no doubt that Contee knew what he was talking about.

"Ed Contee was known, especially in southern Prince George's, as a gravedigger," Thomas said. "He dug graves for all of these black churches. There'd be no reason for him to dissemble about what he knew, about the second cemetery. He was familiar with it. He'd say, 'Some people are buried here, some over there, and they don't even have the gravestones.' "

Fort Washington resident Dave Turner, who lives close to the site in the Broad Creek Historic District and serves on the district's Advisory Council, said he would not be surprised if slave graves were on the property. Colonial families associated with the property were large slaveholders, and though some small cemeteries in the area may contain slave graves, large numbers of local slaves remain unaccounted for, he said.

"We know that the Lyles and Magruder families had 80 slaves and more from the time they settled there in 1660 to the time Mr. Lyles died in the 1820s," Turner said. "There were a lot of slaves. But there's no African American slave cemetery of any size in the Broad Creek Historic District. Where were they being buried? "Our contention is it was probably here, and that would explain why that one little grouping of Lyleses were buried there."

Bruso disagreed, saying that arguments about slave graves "are based on a government mistake of identifying a second cemetery where one never existed" and that slaves are buried elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Turner has also worked closely with members of the Piscataway-Conoy Indian tribe, who are based in Charles County and believe that the land is also the location of a Native American site called "Tessamatuck," which appears on a 1640s map. They suspect that, like other Indian settlements along the Potomac, the property might contain a community grave or ossuary.

About 1990, the then-owners of the tract and adjoining land were contemplating a property sale to the Marriott Corp. for construction of a military officers' retirement home. Sizable numbers of Indian artifacts were uncovered.

In her February opinion, Epps Webb noted that an archaeological survey commissioned for the Marriott project uncovered about 12,000 artifacts in the vicinity.

The Prince George's County Planning Board, which reviews plans for residential subdivisions, has said it is "cognizant of the potential archaeological importance of the site based on the testimony of area residents, oral tradition and prior reports" and will consider those issues in any reviews of the site.

Bruso insisted that his land was not the site of Tessamatuck.

"Only [an] artist's rendering shows it in the vicinity of my property," he said. "Three other [maps] show it [to the] south."

Meanwhile, Davit said she is hopeful about the larger dispute with Bruso.

"People would like to see Tent Landing purchased as open space," she said. "That would be my number one choice. The Indians would like to see that happen. Most everybody would. I think that would be a wonderful thing for that to happen. I'm optimistic because I do believe we're right."

Bruso is equally resolute.

"Absolutely I feel that Rivers Edge is going to get built," said Bruso, who believes that his four planned waterfront homes could command almost $1 million apiece.

He is not averse to the idea of selling his property, though. In fact, he said it's for sale -- for $3 million.

That would be about twice what his company paid for 43-plus acres in 2001. That tract also included about 20 acres now being developed by Mid-Atlantic on the other side of Riverview Road.

According to state records, 11207 Riverview Rd. -- the official address of Bruso's riverfront land -- is valued at about $735,000. Bruso said that is less than the land is worth.

Putting pricey homes on the property, he said, will be good for county tax coffers. Also, he warned, "Every day the citizens extend this case, the price is going up."

2003 The Washington Post Company

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