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Chattanooga businessman embraces Indian mound
The Associated Press Translate This Article
30 June 2012
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A Chattanooga businessman has welcomed visitors to his commercial property - the site of one of the city's oldest Indian mounds.
Kenny Wilhoit, an Amnicola Highway food manufacturer, was surprised about the discovery of the mound a few years ago. He listened intently to local American Indians when they called him, seeking a conservation easement on the mound.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Wilhoit then did something very unusual—he encouraged visits to what they told him was a very sacred spot.
'It means something to them, and it's not hurting me,' said Wilhoit, president and owner of Atlantic Distributors Inc.
The story resonates for the tri-state region, which has thousands of mounds.
Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for the Division of Archaeology in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said there are 900 mound sites recorded to date across Tennessee alone.
Tom Kunesh of Chattanooga, a member of the Advisory Council on Tennessee Indian Affairs, calls the Amnicola mound 'the oldest thing in Chattanooga that humans made.'
And Kunesh, two archaeologists from Nashville and a handful of other Chattanoogans interested in the region's earliest and American Indian history celebrated Sacred Sites Day at the mound on the summer equinox of June 20. In the ceremony, they honored Wilhoit, along with the ancestors buried there.
'He's been great to work with,' Kunesh said. 'He's allowed us access, and we've been out maybe four times in the past year, cleaning it up. It's like cleaning up a cemetery.'
The new friends renamed the mound. What had been labeled 40HA66 in the state Division of Archaeology is now the Chickamauga Mound.
The name is intended to reflect the mound's American Indian origin rather than the Euro-American name it sometimes carried: the Roxbury mound, because the Roxbury textile mill had been built nearby in the 1970s.
Mark Tolley of Nashville was the first to contact Wilhoit and talk to him about the mound on his 25-acre plant site.
Wilhoit said he always thought it was just a small tree-covered hill.
'He (Tolley) filled me in that this was an Indian mound - 2,000 years old,' Wilhoit said. 'And Tom (Kunesh) came in and spent hours with me, talking to me about it and its history.'
Wilhoit said what he heard about the mound on his property touched him.
'We know it is a sacred site. We know it's not to be disturbed,' he said.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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