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1999-08-03
Coolidge, AZ. Wal-Mart' Archaeological Dig

The folks at Wal-Mart Real Estate seem to have a knack for coming up with historically significant places to drop their architectural graffiti. George Washington's boyhood home was one. An indian burial ground in Nashville, TN was another. Wal-Mart had to abandon a site in Leeds, NY when they came across Mohican burial remains. In Greenfield, MA, the Wal-Mart site also stirred up American Indian opposition. Wal-Mart was rejected from that site by a town vote in 1993. Now Wal-Mart is trying to build a superstore across the highway from the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, which is described by the Arizona Republic newspaper as the oldest archaeological reserve in the country, and the only national monument to the Hohokam indians, who can't shop at Wal-Mart because they disappeared 500 years ago. The 35 acres Wal-Mart plans to build on has been depicted as "the worst spot to build on in Arizona" by Keith Kintigh, a professor of anthropology at Arizona State University. The ruins at the Wal-Mart site date back to 1250 A.D. The state of Arizona does not protect fossils or artifacts on private land. Some town officials in Coolidge are more attracted to coins than bones, and believe that Wal-Mart will financially rescue the community. City Manager John Baudek says Wal-Mart is "an important piece to our growth as a city", and is concerned about any delay in Wal-Mart construction. The landowner who sold his parcel to Wal-Mart apparently made a deal with the Archaelogical Conservancy, a non-profit group, that the Conservancy could have 30 acres of land next to the Wal-Mart if the group would agree not to impede the construction of the Wal-Mart site. But other groups have come forward to oppose the project. The Salt-River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Hopi Nation, and Tohono O-odham Nation all want Wal-Mart to avoid building a store on top of indian ruins. Wal-Mart has put construction on hold for now, and says it will meet with concerned groups over the location. Wal-Mart bought the land for $285,000. The Gila River Indian Community, which says they are descended from the Hohokams, want Wal-Mart to pledge that they will protect any burial sites on the parcel and other objects there. Governor Jane Hull has asked the state's Historic Preservation Office to get involved as well. By state law, Wal-Mart is required to return to local tribes any burial remains that they find. Wal-Mart has committed to hiring a company to do a test dig to sample the extent of the remains. Wal-Mart has the choice of digging up the site before construction, and giving experts a chance to study any artifacts, or to stop in the middle of bulldozing each time they find remains. The test dig is expected to occur in August, and the next move is up to Wal-Mart.

What you can do: One has to wonder what Wal-Mart expected to find when buying land across the road from a national ruins monument? Local officials say the company should have known the site contained sensitive historic remains. "Prehistoric man didn't stop at the road", said one state preservation officer. "This has been known to be an important site for some time." The landowner may have bought silence from the Archaelogical Conservancy, but the rest of us do not have to remain silent. The Hohokam indians have no voice left to protest, but your voice can be heard by emailing Wal-Mart at www.wal-mart.com. Send them this simple message: "Leave the bones of the Hohokam in peace. Leave Casa Grande, Arizona alone!










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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