Choctaws petition for work stoppage on road project

VICKSBURG — The Choctaw Nation is asking Warren County to stop work on the local China Grove Road if any historic artifacts traced to Choctaw settlements centuries ago are found.

The action was requested in a letter sent to the county in June asking work to be halted if any significant archaeological materials, such as stone arrowheads, ceramics or foundations of structures, or any human remains are unearthed.

“It’s pretty much standard in any federal project. Contractors know about that kind of stuff,” Board of Supervisors president Bill Lauderdale told the Vicksburg Post.

In 2012, the county received $598,888 in federal funds for work on the southeast Warren County thoroughfare. The county will match the funds. The two-lane road is the most expensive on the county’s short list of road segments in poor condition.

If anything of value to the Choctaws is found, work is to be stopped within a 300-foot radius and the materials protected, according to the letter, signed by Dr. Ian Thompson, director of historic preservation for the Durant, Okla., headquarters of the Choctaw Nation, one of three recognized Choctaw tribes in the U.S.

Warren County is within the Choctaw’s homeland, which covers large parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and is inside a 42,000 square-mile area ceded by the Choctaws to the United States by treaty in the early 19th century.

“For any particular archaeological site located in our homeland that dates before the land cession treaties, a good possibility exists that it could have been made by our ancestors,” Thompson said. “The Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department routinely requests to be informed if archaeological sites are inadvertently encountered, anywhere within this huge area, so that we can be aware of them, and in some instances aid in site evaluation and protection.”

Other Choctaw tribes are the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Neshoba County.

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