Updated: Mar 16
MassDOT Gaslights Taxpayers While Erasing and Rewriting Native American History
After Strong Protests, MassDOT Promised to Seek "Alternate Designs", Now Breaks Promise to Spin 'Alternative Truth'
Why is Nayyag so important?
"A unique, once-in-a-lifetime find," said Dr. Richard Gramly, veteran specialist on Native American archaeology and one of two principal archaeologists to investigate the site.
"The Early Archaic site is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places," said Dr. David Leslie, the second principal archaeologist at Nayyag - right on page 1 of his report. The site is valuable, as Leslie cites: "The study of low-density sites, such as the [Nayyag] Site, has the potential to provide information about the role of these sites within Early or Late Archaic settlement systems, illuminating settlement functions that may be presently unknown to archaeologists (Rieth 2008)."
On page 2, Leslie acknowledges habitation features, "Although no discernable hearth features were found during the expanded site examination, it is highly likely that hearths are preserved at both loci, based on recovered charcoal and heat altered lithics, but were outside the bounds of the shovel testing and excavation plan."
Aquinnah Wampanoag and Mashpee Wampanoag nations of Massachusetts, as well as the Narragansett of Rhode Island, all spoke up for Nayyag’s unique ancient site. In public news releases, each of the 3 named federally-recognized tribes stated they are concerned about preservation and cultural recovery at Nayyag. Even DOT’s own hired archaeologist recommended the site for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Mark Andrews of Aquinnah Wampanoag monitored most of the investigation. In several meetings with MassDOT and state officials, Mr. Andrews and other Native Americans made it clear that the site of concern is highly valued culturally and needs preservation measures. Mr. Andrews made it clear in statements to the press, to MassDOT and in personal messages that he considers the site a place of long term habitation based on all the evidence.
Map showing the Nayyag Ancient Site and a series of sites in the immediate vicinity, almost all of which have been destroyed. There is no public education, interpretation, visitor's site, or any access for public or Native Americans to any aspect or artifacts from these sites.
MassDOT Fails to Manufacture Consent, Promises to Seek Acceptable Plan: 2021
MassDOT claimed a redesign of an intersection was needed for safety reasons. Native land defenders discovered that MassDOT’s own records show that the intersection has had 0 fatalities on record. In fact, the intersection DOT said was dangerous has a lower-than-average accident rate. After heated meetings and public outcry, MassDOT announced they had cancelled their immediate plan and would seek alternative design that responds to concerns of residents and businesses.
One concerned group left out of that statement by DOT are Native Americans.
Now MassDOT has backtracked and paid for a re-re-write of the archaeological report forced to fit their agenda. The new report tries to erase the previous reports.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ready to act? Here's an action plan:
Contact MassDOT and Mass Historical Commission and let them know this is wrong:
Suggested Letter Template at Bottom of Page
Want to learn more? Read on:
2022: A Year Later, MassDOT Does a 180 Degree Turn
A year later, MassDOT is suddenly back with a re-re-write of history and a broken promise to seek consensus with the public. After manufactured consensus tactics failed, MassDOT has resorted to rewriting history.
In its latest move, MassDOT engaged in the deepest conflict of interest by paying their hired researchers to re-envision the two entire archaeological reports on the Nayyag ancient site. A stunning act of self-contradiction results from the 387-page convoluted denialist construct full of passages that directly contradict both the report’s Abstract and its conclusions. See the full report at bottom.
Get the details on the history of Nayyag Preservation:
Politicians and Bureaucrats Vs. Federal Rights and International Human Rights
Federal acts of Congress give recognized tribes the right to be consulted on any project that receives federal funds, under Section 106 of the Historical Preservation Act and policy of the Department of the Interior. The United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 9 through 15 give Native Americans the right to determine what happens to cultural, intellectual and historical property. The USA signed that declaration, but Massachusetts fully dishonors the agreement.
55,000+ people signed a petition to protect Nayyag’s ancient site. Scores of concerned citizens spoke out in meetings with DOT bureaucrats. The City of Northampton denied vested interest in the project, but activists uncovered more than $100, 000 earmarked by the Mayor and City Council for demolition of Nayyag.
Local Rep. Sabadosa and Sen. Comerford engaged with others in misinformation campaigns and personal attacks on Land Defenders. Government officials used their offices to defame and retaliate against private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, as well as the public right to hold their bureaucracy accountable to its own laws.
Image from the petition and local papers showing non-Natives digging up Native legacy for pay, while in turn disrespecting the rights of Native Americans.
Specific claims in the abstract made on thin and indeterminate evidence are irresponsible, as is the failure of the team to also search down to Early Archaic layers through most of the site. This is ironic, given that Dr. Leslie also dug up the oldest known site in Connecticut at Avon, which lay in an extremely deep stratum. Conflicted interest is evident in avoidance of Leslie and AHS of obvious pertinent searches of Early Archaic strata through the majority of the site.
It's All There In Black and White - The Old Truth and the New Lie
Dr. Leslie, the same person who wrote the absurd paid-for denial of his own report, recommended in both his earlier reports that the Nayyag site should be nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. But MassDOT is not happy with that recommendation as it lies in the path of their pavement plans.
In a blatantly politicized pre-conclusion, Dr. Leslie and his partner make a wildly irresponsible claim. Based on literal scraps of clues, the overly specific and visibly biased new claim is contradicted many times in their own report, as well as the two previous reports, as we shall see.
Here’s how the rewriting of history begins in the new report:
“REPORT ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATA RECOVERY PROGRAM SITE 19-HS-377: LOCI 1 AND 2 INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENTS AT NORTH KING STREET (ROUTES 5/10) AND HATFIELD STREET NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS MASSDOT PROJECT # #606555 CONTRACT NO. 92060, STATEWIDE OPEN SERVICES
"Two loci of Site 19-HS-377 produced evidence of pre-colonial occupations in the Northampton area during the Early Archaic Period, and again, albeit briefly, during the Early/Middle Woodland Period. Excavations at the site, inclusive of intensive (locational), site examination, expanded site examination, and data recovery surveys, totalled [sic] 34.5 1x1-meter excavation units, approximating nearly 100% recovery of both Locus 1 and 2. Both loci represent short-term encampments along the Connecticut River, where people during the Early Archaic Period stopped to butcher game, forage for plant foods, repair and retool hunting and foraging gear, and process plant and animal remains into items such as possible clothing or camping equipment. The Early Archaic encampments were short-term, and probably only lasted a day or so, but they represent important insight into how people utilized the landscape during the period and provide valuable information about predicting the locations of other temporary encampments. During the Woodland Period, the single encampment probably represents a quick stopover, during which one or a few people stopped for a quick campfire, and to repair some technology, before moving on their way.”
[this is directly contradicted by co-author Miller on p. 313/p.6 of Usewear Analysis, see below for details)
Tellingly, the new report ignores the findings of Mark Andrews, who monitored excavations and whom Leslie claimed to respect in the first report as "a very experienced cultural resource monitor." More below.
As absurd as it may seem, the following statement is from the Abstract of the earlier Phase I and II report from the same paid-for service company:
“The Early Archaic site is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but the historical-period site is not. Mitigation in the form of Data Recovery is recommended at the Early Archaic site, if it cannot be avoided by project actions.” And this is from Page 2 of the same report on the same site:
"Although no discernable hearth features were found during the expanded site examination, it is highly likely that hearths are preserved at both loci, based on recovered charcoal and heat altered lithics, but were outside the bounds of the shovel testing and excavation plan."
On Page 6, Dr. Leslie acknowledges the rarity of the site and tribal concerns:
"The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) responded that they would like to monitor the investigations and monitored all of the fieldwork associated with the expanded site examination. During the expanded site examination survey, Mark Andrews of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), a very experienced cultural resource monitor, noted that he had never encountered crescent tools or Parallel Stemmed points, and was concerned that the finds indicated a rare site of concern.
"After viewing the crescent tools and Parallel Stemmed points, as well as monitoring the excavations, Andrews characterized the suite of tools as rare and expressed his hope that further investigations would be conducted at the site, including a Data Recovery Program (DRP) and machine-assisted stripping of the plowzone and topsoil in the APE to identify any cultural features (Andrews 2019)."
Leslie admits on page 28 of the first report that archaeologists don't know that much about settlement patterns in ancient times:
The study of low-density sites, such as the [Nayyag] Site, has the potential to provide information about the role of these sites within Early or Late Archaic settlement systems, illuminating settlement functions that may be presently unknown to archaeologists (Rieth 2008).
On Page 38, Leslie makes a detailed argument for including the Nayyag ancient site in the National Register of Historic Places:
Early Archaic archaeological sites are rare, and to date no single-component Parallel Stemmed sites have been discovered in the Northeast. Boudreau (2016) has suggested that the Parallel Stemmed point may be indicative of remnant Paleoindian peoples during the Early Archaic period. Microlithic crescents have not been previously identified in the Northeast, although this tool type has been found commonly in arctic regions, and in other paleolithic contexts across the world. Given the rarity of Early Archaic sites, and the unique assemblage of formal tools at this site, we believe that the [Nayyag} Site is likely eligible for listing in the NRHP under Criteria A and D. It is likely eligible under Criterion A because the site may provide valuable information about the transition between the Paleoindian and Early Archaic periods. It is also likely eligible for listing under Criterion D, because it has demonstrated through the artifact assemblage, site integrity, and remaining portions of each loci that are unexcavated, that it has the potential to yield important information about the Early Archaic period, a period that is understudied in New England due to the scarcity of sites.
New Report is Full of Self-Contradiction
Despite the abstract of the new report's authoritative tone about life of Early Archaic people at Nayyag, the previous report admits openly in two of the above quotes that they really do not know about daily life and settlement patterns in this early period.
Again, AHS and Leslie said: (Logical test: If the following statement A is true:)
"The study of low-density sites, such as the [Nayyag] Site, has the potential to provide information about the role of these sites within Early or Late Archaic settlement systems, illuminating settlement functions that may be presently unknown to archaeologists (Rieth 2008)."
(and the following statement B is true:)
"[Nayyag] has the potential to yield important information about the Early Archaic period, a period that is understudied in New England due to the scarcity of sites."
How can the above statements be asserted by the same person who says in the new abstract that he knows the daily movements and details of settlement in the same period? The answer is that you can't assert any detailed knowledge in the face of the above admissions.
First, some facts: less than a third of the area was investigated. Except the two main loci mentioned, the other test pits were not deep enough to access remains at known levels of Early Archaic and Paleo occupation. Most important fact: this Abstract contradicts the findings and calls for preservation the same author wrote in not one, but two previous reports.
On page 10, without explanation, Leslie contradicts this statement from the first report:
"Early Archaic archaeological sites are rare, and to date no single-component Parallel Stemmed sites have been discovered in the Northeast. Boudreau (2016) has suggested that the Parallel Stemmed point may be indicative of remnant Paleoindian peoples during the Early Archaic period. Microlithic crescents have not been previously identified in the Northeast." Leslie now says, "The crescents indicate a microlithic industry, which is similar to well-documented assemblages at other Early Archaic GMAT sites (Forrest 1999; Jones and Forrest 2003; Jones and Leslie 2018)."
Leslie's statement that occupation was extremely temporary in both the Earlu Archaic period and the Woodland period, just a "stop over" on the way to somewhere else is contradicted by the presence of abundant sites from all periods within a short walk, paddle, or even a literal stones throw away. Leslie's reporting partner's conclusion directly contradicts Leslie's claims on Page 6 of Logan Miller's Usewear Analysis section (p. 313), he describes a full range of living activities evidenced in the artifacts, suggesting that everything from hunting, gathering, cooking, personal attire and more were engaged on the site. This does not speak of a stop-over in a hurry to somewhere else.
"In summary, use wear was identified on ten of twelve chipped stone tools from Site 19- HS-377. Many tools were used in the procurement and processing of hunted game while a sizeable number of tools were also used to process bone, wood, or plant materials. Additionally, one multipurpose ground stone tool was identified, and evidence of a drilled hole was documented on a probable gorget fragment. This reveals that a wide range of resource procurement, processing, and fabrication tasks occurred at the site, especially considering the relatively small sample subjected to microwear analysis."
The body of the new "draft" report is replete with statements and findings that fully contradict the claims of the abstract.
This is how paid-for pseudoscience poses on behalf of perpetuated genocide to excuse erasure of places those same paid service researchers said, just a year ago, is worthy of national recognition and preservation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Contact these people and let them know this is wrong:
Suggested letter template:
I/We are very concerned about just process, human rights and compliance with racial equality in historic preservation policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as those of the United States of America. Unfortunately, equality is not reflected in the lack of preservation and protection for significant Native American historic and archaeological legacy.
Of immediate concern is your plan to demolish the “unique, once-in-a lifetime find” (Dr. Richard Gramly) Early Archaic through Woodland site at Nayyag. We are aware that DOT and Northampton have been engaged in serial erasure of Indigenous heritage sites without any protection, preservation or public interpretation of those sites and their cultural legacy.
The investigating archaeologist you hired recommended NRHP nomination for the site in question: MASSDOT PROJECT #606555. Large parts of the site were not excavated to potential Early Archaic and Paleo strata, ironically emphasized by the same Dr. Leslie in the case of the Avon, CT site, the oldest known site in that state. Here, Dr. Leslie neglectfully ignores his own statements about the need to investigate deep strata.
You are well aware of the strong opposition to further damaging this unique and irreplaceable site from Indigenous leaders, tribes and local descendants of nations who have been denied thus far their right to recognition under the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 9-15. Over 55,000 people signed the petition to protect and preserve the named site at Nayyag.
I/We are disturbed by the attempt to rewrite culture, history and even the two previous archaeological reports by Dr. Leslie under your hire. The abstract to your third and strangely revisionist paid-for report reveals intense interference of conflicted interest. The abstract as rendered in the February 3, 2022 re-re-write of findings is fictive and tailored to the agenda of the DOT. The claims made in the Abstract of the named report are contradicted by its own author in numerous places. The Abstract also contradicts Indigenous self-knowledge and traditional narrative. The revised abstract and report are paid-for pseudoscience that does not withstand basic logical testing.
Mr. Mark Andrews of the Aquinnah Wampanoag nation was present through most of the excavations and personally witnessed the artifact assemblage in situ. Given Mr. Andrews’ status as an enculturated Indigenous person of local origin and "a very experienced cultural monitor" in Leslie's own words, we find it inappropriate to the level of offensive and racist to place the opinion of a non-Native with no cultural knowledge over that of a tribal officer speaking to their own culture.
MassDOT along with the City of Northampton, misinformed the public on material facts regarding the funding, root motivation and details of this project. After being confronted by numerous unhappy citizens with facts and questions, objections and challenges, MassDOT issued a public guarantee that, in paraphrase, MassDOT would seek an alternate design for the intersection and would ensure any DOT met the needs of residents and businesses in the area.
You are breaking that promise. You are also in violation of UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 9 – 15, to which the United States of America is a signatory nation.
Read the full 3rd report in draft here: