Illegal Decision Puts Tequesta Native Village Site Under Hotel
One of the most well preserved Native villages in North America, where the Tequesta lived in Florida for 2,000 years, may soon be found beneath a luxurious hotel and entertainment center. The decision to go forward with the plan was approved behind closed doors and deemed illegal by some. In a two-day mediation, archaeologists, preservationists, and MDM Development agreed to enclose small portions of what remains of the largest ancient village ever found in Florida.
A complaint filed against the City of Miami by William J. Pestle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Miami, states the mediation agreement is null and void, as it ignored Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires certain government meetings remain open to the public. Pestle said the city commissioners invented this mediation process to exclude the public. “That was illegal,” he said. “The parties involved in the mediation were gagged from making any public comment, there were no minutes or any record at all; it’s peculiar. This stinks to heaven.”
Before the mediation, the Preservation Board continually ruled in favor of preserving the site, Pestle said. Ralf Brookes, Pestle’s attorney, said, “The Historic and Environmental Preservation Board meetings showed that public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of preservation. This mediation process had no precedent, no legal basis, and… we allege violated Florida’s Sunshine Law.”
The Tequesta site, which is often referred to as “The Birthplace of Miami,” was situated where the mouth of the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay. Last fall, Robert S. Carr, executive director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy for Florida, began to uncover the nine circles ranging from 21 to 41 feet in diameter. The circles are comprised of hundreds of post holes that were cut into the limestone with shells. “They didn’t have metal tools, so they used conch shells to hollow out the holes. We made shell tools and they could actually cut stone,” Carr said.
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