Fighting pipeline threat to Native American ceremonial stone landscapes

Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, who serves as Preservationist for Ceremonial Landscapes, will be making a presentation on the historical and cultural significance of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes (CSLs) threatened by the proposed Connecticut Expansion pipeline in Sandisfield, MA. The presentation, featuring slides and an explanation of the deep cultural roots of these sites, will be held Wednesday, March 22, 2017, First Church, 27 East Street in Pittsfield, at 6:00 pm, along with an introduction to the CT Expansion project by Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass. This event is free and open to the public.

73 CSLs were identified in an on-the-ground survey conducted by several Tribes in the second half of 2016. According to Mr. Harris, a full one-third of these CSLs will be disturbed or destroyed during the construction of this pipeline. FERC’s Environmental Assessment (“EA”), issued in 2015, included alternative routes that may have avoided many of the CSLs, but FERC approved TGP’s preferred route before the CSL survey was undertaken.  Thus, the FERC certificate was issued in violation of the regulations of the National Historic Preservation Act (the “NHPA Regulations”), which require that the agency “complete the section 106 process ‘prior to the issuance of any license.”  This regulation also makes clear that the purpose of initiating the section 106 process early in project planning is to ensure “that a broad range of alternatives may be considered during the planning process”.

Although some have suggested that it would be acceptable to disassemble the CSLs and reassemble them when construction of the Project is completed, Mr. Harris explains that their disassembly would be seen as an interruption of the prayers placed there. According to Mr. Harris, “Then what you have is an artistic replica of something that was spiritual. Once you remove the stones, the spiritual content is broken.”

Disturbance or destruction of these sites would further erase traces of a part of our history, and a still living segment of our culture that is already often ignored – that of this region’s first peoples. To disturb these ceremonial features is damaging to the religious sensibilities of our Native citizens who still embrace the beliefs of their forebears.

This event is sponsored by Berkshire Environmental Action Team and No Fracked Gas in Mass. For more information on the issue, visit http://tinyurl.com/SaveMANativeSites

CAN, and their 501c3 non-profit fiscal sponsor Creative Thought and Action have played a pivotal role in collecting funds for the legal fight to protect the Ceremonial Stone Landscape. If you are able to donate to this cause, please make your check payable to “Creative Thought and Action,” the fiscal sponsor for Climate Action Now. Please put CSL in the “for” line, mail to CAN’s treasurer:

Rene Theberge

250 Shutesbury Road,

Amherst, MA 01002

For those interested in knowing more about the Ceremonial Stone Landscape, Mr. Harris will be making a presentation featuring slides and an explanation of the deep cultural roots of ceremonial sites on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, First Church, 27 East Street in Pittsfield, MA at 6:00pm. Also speaking, with information about the CT Expansion project, is Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass. This event is free and open to the public.