By CARRIE STAMBAUGH - The Independent
ASHLAND — The Indian burial mounds at Central Park will be protected.
The City of Ashland committed this week to fencing the prehistoric mounds off after a series of complaints by the Native American community.
The mounds at Central Park, near the bandstand, are on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the registry, the mounds date to the Pre-Columbian Adena culture.
The historic registry lists the mounds as being period significant between 500-999 B.C., 499-0 B.C., 499-0 A.D., 1000-500 A.D. They are not believed to have been excavated and the registry states they have “information potential.” Several of the mounds are believed to have been looted by early treasure hunters.
William Shackleford, executive tribal manager of the Ridgetop Shawnee, said he was pleased with the development of protecting the mounds.
Shackleford said he had received a complaint about the mounds being unprotected at the park and contacted City Manager Steve Corbitt.
He said during that conversation Corbitt agreed to fence off the area and place a marker at the park entrance informing visitors to stay off the mounds.
According to Corbitt, the orange construction fencing currently around the mounds is temporary. He said a permanent decorative fence will be erected in the coming weeks along with a marker explaining the mounds’ significance.
“Ashland has a special gift and these mounds are our ancestor’s graves and we take this very seriously,” said Shackleford by e-mail this week. “So this situation is a very important situation to the Indian People of Kentucky. The City and the Ridgetop Shawnee have pledged to work together to solve these problems, in that regard this is actually a historical moment,” he wrote.
Shackleford, who is also a member of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission, stressed he was not acting in that official capacity. He said this year has been momentous for Native Americans in Kentucky.
In addition to being partially recognized by the legislator, Shackleford said there have been other positive changes including the ability of tribes to have their voices heard at high levels of state government.
“The culture is changing in Kentucky,” he said.
A major goal of Native American organizations is to strengthen Kentucky’s grave desecration laws. Legislation has been introduced before the General Assembly for nearly the past decade, Shackleford said, but has always been defeated.
“Kentucky has terrible grave desecration laws. That’s what it’s all about, changing that culture so they stop digging up our graves. In every other state in America you go to jail for digging up a burial mound,” he said.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.