TVA & Little Cedar Mountain:|
There is a serious threat to Native homelands of the past and present in the Tennessee River Valley. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federal agency which has acquired massive land-holdings by exercising its "right" of eminent domain totaling 11,000 miles of shoreline on the Tennessee River and its tributaries. In January 1997 the chairman of the TVA Board of Directors, Craven Crowell, announced that TVA plans to "privatize" the majority of its land holdings that are not involved in the TVA power program. This action would mean that the fate of hundreds of acres of public land, including their cultural and natural resources, would be turned over to private developers. Since the announcement of the privatization plan, a large piece of property (701 acres) has had its land use status re-allocated from "public recreation" to "commercial recreation and residential use".
Little Cedar Mountain and Shellmound, as they are known locally, comprise a beautiful 701-acre tract of wooded shoreline in Marion County -- about 20 miles west of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and directly adjacent to US Interstate 24 as it crosses the Tennessee River. This land, which is presently being farmed and used to host an annual crafts and folk festival, is being considered by developers as the future home of a golf course, marina and upper-income housing project. Located within these 701 acres are at least 11 identified "cultural resource sites" on file with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, including all that is known to remain of the Chickamauga Cherokee town of Running Water, home of Dragging Canoe, famous son of Chief Attakullakulla, signer of the Henderson Purchase. Archaeological work to date has only been a surface investigation, archival research and minimal "shovel testing." Many different occupations representing time periods dating back to 1500 bce have been identified from the research already done. Cherokee and prehistoric sites are becoming more and more precious as commercial and residential development destroys the few riverside sites that were left after TVA inundated many whole historic towns when it created its lake system starting in the 1930s.
Three members of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association (CITA) spoke to the TVA Board at their January 29, 1997 meeting during which a final vote of the three-member Board would dictate the future use of Little Cedar Mountain and Shellmound. We voiced our concerns about the possibility of unmarked graves being disturbed during development and our concern for the loss of Dragging Canoe's only remaining town site and one of the last home places of the Pre-Removal Cherokee. There was also the suggestion made that if TVA wants to divest itself of property, that they consider deeding it over to Native Americans who promise to follow good land stewardship practices and to live on the land. After listening to nearly three hours of comments from citizens (mostly opposed to the development) and Marion county officials (mostly in favor of the development as a way to increase the tax base in the small, rural county), the TVA Board voted unanimously to change Little Cedar Mountain's land-use status to allow commercial recreational and residential projects. On January 30, 1997, the day after the TVA Board vote, a TVA official contacted the CITA public relations committee and asked for a private meeting with the members who had expressed concern about Little Cedar Mountain. A private meeting was held February 18, 1997 at which CITA, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, and the Southeast Tennessee representative of the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs were all promised that the cultural resources on the 701 acres would be protected no matter who developed the land. We were also promised an open line of communication concerning anything that happened with that land. On April 8, 1997 an article appeared in the Chattanooga Times announcing that TVA is actively seeking developers for the Little Cedar Mountain tract. CITA received no communication from TVA about this change and once again we had to find out about events secondhand by reading the paper. This behavior sends a strong message to us as to how TVA plans to treat us as they proceed with their privatization program.
Concerned citizens are instructed to come to the TVA Board meetings and express their concerns. Since the TVA Board meetings are held at different locations throughout the Tennessee Valley and are always during working hours, it is not suited for public participation. To further complicate the matter, the agenda for each monthly meeting is usually not released until just a few days before the meeting, making it doubly difficult for people to plan to speak on any issue. Once the TVA Board votes on any item, the decision is final and there is no further vehicle for public comment.
CITA perceives the recent action at Little Cedar Mountain as the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. Already another Cherokee site (office of the Cherokee agency from 1817-1823) at Agency Creek on the Hiwassee River is up for "reallocation" from "public recreation" to "commercial" status. In this case TVA refuses to hold a public hearing about the matter because even though the TVA Land Use office acknowledges that they received 100 written comments during the public comment period held over Christmas 1996 and ending January 9, 1997, there was "not enough public concern" to warrant a public hearing prior to the Board's vote.
CITA believes that a unified effort among all who care about Native American cultural and historical sites that are in danger from the effects of development can exert influence on the decisions of TVA. Decisions regarding the fate of public land are being made rapidly with little or no attention being paid to the wishes of the public. We must raise our voices now, or be ignored along with the rest of the American people who, ironically, pay the salaries of the federally-employed TVA Board and all TVA employees. We must act quickly to stop the reallocations of public lands to private use. Please respond to us with your suggestions or comments. We will inform all who are interested of all public comment periods, public hearings and TVA Board meetings that are scheduled concerning land use issues. You may contact us through voice mail, email, or regular mail. The Chattanooga InterTribal Association holds regular monthly meetings, and we promise to answer all inquiries. Thank you.
[Note: TVA said it would announce its chosen developer of Little Cedar Mountain
on 1 august 1997. On 1 november 1997 the Chattanooga Free Press broke the news:
TVA's honey developer is Hines Interests, Limited Partnership.]
po box 1063 . Chattanooga TN 37401 | 423. 954.2376
14 april 1997 vk