Lowrey Hesse, vice principal chief of the United Cherokee Ani Yun Wiya Nation, gave a news conference outside of Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama on February 5. (Crystal Bonvillian/AL.com)

Alabama Tribe Opposes School Relocation


The possible relocation of an Alabama school has the United Cherokee Ani Yun Wiya Nation, a state recognized tribe, worried about the relocation site.

Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama is currently located on Baily Cove Road, but administrators proposed rebuilding it on a 60-acre plot off of Weatherly Road.

“We know that there are human remains there. My ancestors,” Lowrey Hesse, the tribe’s vice principal chief, said February 5 during a news conference, reported AL.com. “The old adage goes, ‘Do you want your own grandmother dug up?’ That’s the way we feel, except we’re a little closer to the issue than most average Americans.”

The Ani Yun Wiya Nation isn’t the only group looking to protect the site. Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research released the results of a survey it conducted on behalf of the Byrd Springs Rod and Gun Club in January in which the research group’s director and principal investigator, Hunter Johnson, said there are at least five archaeological sites that would be affected if the Weatherly Road site was developed, reported AL.com.

“(TVAR) recommends that all the sites within the proposed development be evaluated by a qualified archaeologist in regard to site preservation and (National Register of Historic Places) status prior to any further disturbances,” Johnson wrote in the report. “Otherwise, a historic resource potentially significant to improving our understanding of American history and prehistory could be irretrievably lost during the course of construction activities on the site.”

The Ani Yun Wiya Nation, a state recognized tribe, handed out a plethora of information at the news conference including a January 11 letter from Alabama state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn to Huntsville Superintendent Casey Wardynski. That letter details three Native American sites on the Weatherly Road land that contain human remains. The state actually has a law against disturbing any human remains—the Alabama Burial Act was signed in 2010 and charges anyone guilty of disturbing remains with a misdemeanor.

According to AL.com, a school district spokesman said research into the Weatherly Road site was still ongoing.

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Red Haircrow's picture
Red Haircrow
Submitted by Red Haircrow on
This is literally right down the street, five minutes from where my parents live, where my nephew went to high school, and the school system of which I was president of a committee on Indian Education. I have many contacts, friends and cousins at the heart of this on-going battle. At the same time, this representative and no others I know of, and literally one of my closest friends who is Lakota and now is a representative in the Indian Ed Federal programs department can verifiy, hasn't see this man or anyone else from that tribe do anything, helping or supportive of the IE programs within that school system or city. In some ways, it seems they want to serve those interests that get them in the news, but for the basic education and support of native children? They don't have the interest or time to participate. My request to them is to be part of the Indian Education program in the Huntsville City Schools district, so that they have an even stronger position, which helps our fundings & grants even more so. We've had the long problem, over ten years, of the HCS board of education ignoring, dismissing or minimizing our native students needs. People like Lowrey Hesse, and this state recognized tribe have never even stepped up to keep funding for to help for basic, necessary projects to provide support and care for children and families.

Sherry Shepard's picture
Sherry Shepard
Submitted by Sherry Shepard on
I live in South Huntsville. I have ancestors that were indians. I feel that building Grissom High School on a Indian burial ground is wrong. They deserve to rest in peace without being dug up. You would not mess with a ceremtary plot, so why would you mess with their's. That is disrespective to the history of a lot of our ancestors. Grissom needs to find another site to build on, I'm sure with all the land available that is not impossible.They to consider preserving history instead of destroying it.