NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As progress continues on Nashville's future, some worry about its past.
"A thousand years ago you had tens of thousands of Native American people here who raised families who, like families today, had children,” said Albert Bender, an activist with the Tennessee Ancient Sites Conservancy and chairperson of American Indian Coalition in Nashville. "Over a million Native Americans inhabited the area that is now Nashville, Tennessee.”
He said activists worry the Oracle construction site could sit atop ancient Native American burial sites and artifacts. To find out, they would like to see construction delayed for an advanced archaeological dig.
"Other archaeological digs have brought forth the fact that Native American culture and habitation in this area stretches all the way back to 12,000 to 13,000 years,” said Bender.
He points to the artifacts unearthed during construction of the Nashville Sounds Stadium. “They found the remains of a huge salt-making industry that was engaged in by Native Americans in that area that resulted in the exporting of salt of Native American communities throughout the entire Southeast.”
Oracle sent us a statement reading: “Oracle will work closely with the State Archeologist to take the proper steps during the project design, permitting and construction process to verify that there are no Native American burial sites on the property.”
But Bender said, “if the proper precautions are not taken a huge, huge aspect of the Native American cultural resources of Nashville will be irretrievably lost.”
If human remains are discovered, state law requires all work must stop.
A representative with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said: "Approximately 700 years ago, the east bank of the Cumberland River was the location of a large Native American town that encompassed most of the River North development area and extended eastward to approximately where McFerrin Park is today.
TDEC is in the process of collecting archaeological records about the area to share with Oracle per their request. TDEC has not requested Oracle, or any development occurring along the east bank of the Cumberland River in the River North development area, pause development due to the potential of discovering archaeological sites. It is our understanding that Oracle has retained an archaeological consultant as well. If human burials are discovered, state law requires all work to stop. Beyond that, TDEC’s only involvement is to provide information to ensure the development is planned and can continue in a way that is sensitive to the natural and cultural resources of the area."