Herning Warehouse Revisited
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Grave dispute goes to mediator
April 10, 2005
DAWN De BUSK/Frontiersman reporter
In 1965, Chief Paul Theodore's mom placed her body in front of heavy machinery to try to stop construction of what is now Knik-Goose Bay Road, because that road was passing over Athabaskan Indian burial sites.
Nearly 40 years later, Chief Theodore and his wife, Star, are battling with words to keep heavy equipment from digging under the old Herning warehouse, a historic building that was relocated to the old town of Knik in 1984 atop a wooden foundation and upon the earth of more Athabaskan Indian graves, according to Star Theodore.
"I want them to not dig any more graves in Knik. I want Wasilla to take it (the Herning Warehouse) back. It's a historical building, but it's not related to the history of Knik. It was built in Wasilla; it should go back there," Star Theodore said.
The machines are quiet for the time being. The digging has stopped, and an independent mediator will seek a peaceful solution.
The Wasilla-Knik Historical Society had been participating in a grant program that receives its revenue from the borough's bed tax to complete tourism- or culture-related projects, according to Murph O'Brien, the Mat-Su Borough's planning and land-use director.
The historical society was trying to place the Herning warehouse on a permanent foundation adjacent to its current location, O'Brien said.
The borough halted the project last month, stopping the digging until a decision involving all the parties can be reached. Then, to speed the process, O'Brien hired David Hansen, whose Anchorage-based business, Arktos, specializes in mediation and public involvement.
"He was hired to be an independent party to identify the issues and to understand the concerns of all the parties and to eventually, hopefully, come up with some recommended solutions," O'Brien said.
After studying the history of old Knik, Hansen spent the last week contacting the various parties and setting up meeting dates, according to O'Brien.
Today, he meets with Chief Paul Theodore, Star Theodore, their attorney and Nancy Sult, with Friends of Old Knik.
"I could take you walking down a path here that would make you cry. There are open pits where graves were unearthed and never reburied," Star Theodore said.
The borough holds the deed to the land where the Herning warehouse stands, and the Theodores' ancestors are buried their.
The Theodores have been told that ground-penetrating radar would be used so that any artifacts could be located prior to digging.
"What bothers me about this is the fact that the borough has the right to use infrared around sacred ground where people's graves are just because they can do that. I, for one, wouldn't want my ancestor disturbed for any reason," said borough assembly member Betty Vehrs, who says she has received stacks of letters from Chief Theodore. "I don't understand why the Herning warehouse is placed where it is."
The Theodores not only want the digging to stop for good and the Herning warehouse to be returned to Wasilla, they suspect previous digs turned up artifacts that should be returned to them.
"It would be impossible to do as much digging as has been done and not find a funeral artifact," Star Theodore said.
The artifacts should be returned or an inventory of everything that's been unearthed should be provided to the Knik tribe, Paul Theodore said.
Some of the parties involved - who will be telling a mediator their sides of the story - include borough personnel, members of the historical society, the Knik Atnu Corp., Friends Of Old Knik, and members of the Knik tribe.
Star Theodore hopes she can get a group together to draft ordinances that will keep people from digging up graves. She says she's worried about Aurora Cemetery, where she has family buried. Those gravesites could be affected by any plan to straighten Wasilla Fishhook Road, she said.
There will be a Prayer vigil at Mile 13 KGB road.May 1, 2005
The Wasilla Knik Historical Society and the Mat-Su Borough have a very disrespecful project planned. The project is a basement for the old Herning Warehouse. The location for the basement is in the middle of the Native cemetery identified by Alice Theodore in the Knik Grave Survey done by Dr. Douglas Reger in 1983. Please pray that the Mat-Su Borough will stop this project. Please check the "Friends of Old Knik" link on www.knik.org to join the peaceful prayer vigil that will start soon. We need people willing to watch the site 24/7 when the building season starts. We are asking all contractors to refuse to participate in this project. A.S. 11.46.482 clearly states it is against the law to destroy a cemetery. Who will take the first shovel full of dirt from this cemetery? Bring help cuz you will have to move me and many members of Friends of Old Knik!
Nancy L Sult
Please contact the Borough and tell them you want this project stopped and that we all want Fran Seager-Boss Fired for suggesting this terrible project.(11/04 hpc meeting per benoni nelson)
Chief of Planning
350 E. Dahlia Avenue
Palmer, AK 99645
Citation: Alaska Historic Preservation Act (Alaska Stat. §41.35.010 through §41.35.240).
Dates Enacted : 1971, amended 1988 and 1993
Summary: Alaska has no specific laws dealing with reburial or repatriation of prehistoric human remains or an unmarked graves law, §41.35.190(c) of the Alaska Historic Preservation Act does state that "No person may unlawfully destroy, mutilate, deface, injure, remove or excavate a gravesite or a tomb, monument, gravestone or other structure or object at a gravesite, even though the gravesite appears to be abandoned, lost or neglected." Native Alaskan consent is required for excavation of native sites and landowner consent is required for excavation on private lands. The Alaska Historical Commission has responsibility for managing and protecting all prehistoric and historic sites in the state and issues permits for excavations. Nothing may diminish cultural rights or responsibilities of persons of aboriginal decent or infringe upon their right of possession, and use of those resources and local cultural groups may obtain from the state resources of respective cultural if meet certain criteria. Violations of the Historic Preservation Act provisions are considered a class A misdemeanor and civil penalties may be assessed up to $100,000 per violation and up to one year in jail.
Jurisdiction: All state lands.
Statute of Limitations: Not specified.
Areas Covered Under Act: All structures, ruins, sites, buildings, graves, artifacts or other objects of antiquities.
Ownership: State owns all archaeological sites and resources on state lands. Review/Consultation Committee: The Historic Sites Advisory Committee includes 2 persons representing ethnic groups indigenous to Alaska.
Liable: Anyone who excavates without a permit or anyone who removes, injures, destroys, any historic, prehistoric or archaeological resources of the state.
Penalties: Violations are considered a Class A misdemeanor with fines up to $5,000 and up to one year in jail. Civil penalties may be assessed up to $100,000. Exemptions: Nothing may diminish cultural rights or responsibilities of persons of aboriginal decent or infringe upon their right of possession, and use of those resources and local cultural groups may obtain from the state resources of respective cultural if meet certain criteria. Permitting: The Alaska Historic Commission issues permits for archaeological and historical site excavation.
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previous: Section 480 <../../../Statutes/Title11/Chapter46/Section480.htm>. Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree.
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AS 11.46.482. Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of criminal mischief in the third degree if, having no right to do so or any reasonable ground to believe the person has such a right,
(1) with intent to damage property of another, the person damages property of another in an amount of $500 or more;
(2) the person recklessly creates a risk of damage in an amount exceeding $100,000 to property of another by the use of widely dangerous means; or
(3) the person knowingly
(A) defaces, damages, or desecrates a cemetery or the contents of a cemetery or a tomb, grave, or memorial regardless of whether the tomb, grave, or memorial is in a cemetery or whether the cemetery, tomb, grave, or memorial appears to be abandoned, lost, or neglected;
(B) removes human remains or associated burial artifacts from a cemetery, tomb, grave, or memorial regardless of whether the cemetery, tomb, grave, or memorial appears to be abandoned, lost, or neglected.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under (a)(3) of this section that the defendant, at the time of the offense, was
(1) an employee of the cemetery and was engaged in an authorized activity on behalf of the cemetery; or
(2) authorized by law or state permit to engage in the conduct.
(c) In this section,
(1) "contents of a cemetery" includes anything that is designed or used for the protection, security, or ornamentation of a cemetery and that is located within a cemetery;
(2) "memorial" means a headstone, marker, gravestone, monument, or other object designed or intended to mark a gravesite or to memorialize the death of a person;
(3) "tomb" means a mausoleum, columbarium, or crypt, whether that mausoleum, columbarium, or crypt is located above or below ground.
(d) Criminal mischief in the third degree is a class C felony.
C. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION (Three minutes per person.)
Mayor Anderson opened audience participation.
Chief Paul Theodore spoke to concerns regarding treatment and funding of native issues and protection of native grave sites.
John Braudigan spoke to historical preservation and treatment of existing graves near the Knik Museum; noted that there are not only native graves but also first pioneers in the valley, that roads and houses have been built over them.
Star Hen-Drake also spoke with respect to the graves. She requested that the borough reconsider the placement of the Herning warehouse and asked for respect for the sacred land of these people.
Nancy Sult, Vice President of Friends of Old Knik, spoke to lack of respect for native rights, noting that placement of the warehouse on a foundation anywhere behind the museum is wrong. She serves on the Historical Preservation Commission; noted it should include a native representative; also noted the chairman has not attended the last four meetings and she asked that she be replaced. She would like to see status be given back to cemeteries and it is her hope that someone on the assembly will step forward and designate all of the Knik cemeteries, including the one behind the museum.
There being no others who wished to present testimony, Mayor Anderson closed audience participation.
E. OTHER NEW BUSINESS
(There was no Other New Business)
(There were no reconsiderations)
(There were no vetoes presented.)
XII. EXECUTIVE SESSION
(There was no executive session held.)
XIII. MAYOR AND ASSEMBLY COMMENTS
· appreciated the testimonies of the people from Knik and spoke to their concerns;
· said that she has been assured that there are no graves there, but if there are, there is plenty of land elsewhere so as not to destroy something that is important to some of our people; and
· stated she is not sure what she can do, but she will look into it a little further and will do what she can.
Assemblymember Bush had no comment.
· clarified her reason for voting against the CUP; and
· expressed appreciation for serving the last three years in office, that it has been interesting, challenging, and special.
· also appreciated hearing the concerns of the Knik people; said he wishes them well and hopes that their needs can be met;
· stated that if the assembly’s action tonight (on the CUP) does not keep work from progressing; there is still the opportunity to bring things forward to make changes, that passage has only helped to calm the troubled waters; stated that it is a living document and it needs to be treated as such;
· noted that this is his last meeting of service on the assembly and expressed appreciation for the three years; said it was a pleasure to work with honorable people; and
· congratulated the assembly members for their integrity and hard work and wished them well.
MOTION: Assemblymember Colver moved to direct the administration to perform an assessment as to whether graves are present on the proposed Herning warehouse site at Old Knik. If graves are present, then the administration shall find another suitable location for the warehouse.
Assemblymember Simpson noted that, per Ms. Garley, it is part of the grant to do that very work.
Assemblymember Colver stated that at least it will be on record; noted that we’ve had testimony here and people are expecting some leadership; noted that it doesn’t hurt to back them with the legislative intent that we wish to carry out that promise.
Assemblymember Ladere thanked Assemblymember Colver.
Mayor Anderson asked if there was any other discussion on the motion. None was offered.
VOTE: The motion passed without objection.
· thanked Assemblymember Colberg for his words this evening, that he summarized it very well and addressed a lot of the ongoing comments;
· said she would like to second what Assemblymember Kelly said, that even though we don’t always agree, we all want to do what is right and what is right for our community; and
· noted that she is proud of what the did tonight, that it did not come easily, and she is very glad to be at this milepost.
· thanked Mayor Anderson and Manager Duffy for their support and the progress made regarding Triad and the hospital and reconsideration of relocation;
· noted it is going before the voters in November; and
· emphasized that it makes a difference to be on the assembly and come up with ideas, work on them, and bring them to where they are today.
· noted that he and Mr. Duffy will be meeting with Usibelli on Thursday and Friday;
· also will be going to Fairbanks to meet with Senator Therialt to discuss coal and port issues and about helping with the railroad spur;
· stated he will be attending the school board meeting tomorrow at their request to discuss the youth court issue; and
· stated that he personally thinks the school board should take a good hard look at funding it.
Assemblymember Kelly hoped that when the Mayor is in Fairbanks he take the opportunity to discuss the energy matters at hand; thinks that it is important that we recognize and get behind any kind of development that will keep our electricity under control.
Mayor Anderson continued:
· noted that he is sympathetic to the issues of the people of Knik and he will ask Mr. Duffy to look into it and hopefully bring something back regarding the recognition of cemeteries. He is not sure whether the borough has the power, but if we do, we might want to take the step toward recognition to keep these issues from reoccurring;
· applauded Assemblymember Colberg for his speech tonight; said that it was eloquently spoken and that if the borough had hallowed halls, his words are something he would like to see hung on those walls; and
· spoke to the CUP, stating that he thinks the affect is going to be tremendous in what it does for our community, that he hopes we can heal our community as far as the differences of opinion, and he thinks that most people will see that this was a correct step to take, that we can now move ahead in a positive manner with planning.
Members present: Lt. Governor Loren Leman, Judy Bittner, John Cook, Emily DeForest, Romer Derr, Terry Hyer, Patricia Roppel, Candy Waugaman
Members absent: none
Others present: Whitney Brewster (Lt. Governor's staff), Jo Antonson (Office of History and Archaeology staff), A.C. Brown (geographic names advisor), Nancy Sult, Chief Paul B. Theodore, Charlie Frances
Public comment. Alaska Historic commission meeting
Nancy Sult, President of the Kink Cemetery Association, distributed information about the community of Knik. She said a site where the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is proposing to dig a foundation for a building in Knik has up to forty graves on it. She has asked borough officials to stop the project and proposed the land be given to the local Native people. Sult asked Alaska Historical Commission members not to approve Certified Local Government grant proposals for projects at the site. She said there is more detail about her opposition and the proposed foundation project at her web site, www.knik.org. John Cook asked if the information on sites found when Doug Reger conducted an archaeological survey for the Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey has been entered in the AHRS, and Judy Bittner responded that she believes it has been entered. Candy Waugaman asked who owns the land where the building would be placed and Nancy Sult said the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Paul Theodore said he is unhappy about damage that has been done to the places of his ancestors by, among others, Russians and Smithsonian representatives. Theodore and Sult noted the site was thoughtlessly damaged when fill was put at Knik during the 1950s when a Nike missile site was constructed nearby. Charlie Frances concluded the remarks related to Knik saying that some things must be done from the heart.