Struggle for Equal Preservation at Nayyag - Showdown
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Citizens Speak for Nayyag Preservation
Get the Facts, the Context and Listen the Actual Meeting Yourself
Admissions of Fact by DOT representatives:
MassDOT Jameson Harwood: “The nature of this meeting was to present the project and what was done rather than debate a lot of the issues.” So the state is using taxpayer money to propagandize the public, while public will is given no weight in this "democractic process."
DOT released statistics that show this intersection has a below-average rate of accidents, and no fatalities in the 5 year study period. This is a $3.5-million-dollar "safety" redesign for an intersection with below-average risk. MassDOT Alex Fagnand : "In terms of this particular intersection it was looked at a couple times. It was looked at in the FDR, it was looked at in the Intersection Control Study. The Intersection Control Study looked at a five year period, and found three injuries, and eleven property-damage-onlys."
THERE ARE NO FATAL CRASHES ON RECORD AT THIS INTERSECTION - Studies find that roundabouts actually increase non-fatal crashes, and only reduce fatal crashes. In absence of fatalities, roundabouts increase risk of accident:
A Roundabout in Longmeadow holds the Guiness Book of World Records top spot for accidents, averaging one per day:
Cities end up having to spend money again to fix dangerous roundabouts:
This law firm says that roundabouts are hotspots for accidents and injury:
Context and History of Nayyag and Its Indigenous Richness
Kwenitekwuk, the Connecticut River Valley, bisects Western Massachusetts and is the focus of settlement, movement, trade and sustenance for over 10,000 years. That section of Kwenitekwuk from Pacomtuck (Deerfield River) to Chicopi (Chicopi River Falls) has been a crossways of Indigenous culture also since the earliest times. Chert from the Mohawk River Valley is found at one of the earliest sites at the nose of Amiskwunoag (South and North Sugarloaf). At the time of contact with fur traders and land speculators from England, this region of the Connecticut River was home to no less than six different languages (Dr. Ives Goddard, Algonquian Conference, 2016), a very rich mosaic of Indigenous peoples closely related to the others around them.
Ancient sites abound throughout Massachusetts, but these are concentrated near the Long River and the East Coast. Up and down Kwenitekwuk, these irreplaceable places of heritage have been erased, either completely removed or left forgotten and unprotected on unrecognized land. Only a few places of Colonial first foothold is Indigenous legacy publicly interpreted, marked and recognized. Across most of the state, Indigenous places of life and ceremony are invisible and forgotten in education and history.
You can learn more about the history and context of the Nayyag Indigenous heritage area:
This state allows the serial erasure of Indigenous legacy sites. The problem is racial inequity in historic preservation: Lack of treating Indigenous history with the equal overview and concern for planned and comprehensive preservation and interpretation that Colonial/Euroamerican legacy enjoys.
Nayyag is a place of focus where Indigenous history is written in multiple sites of occupation over more than 10,000 years. Nayyag describes the pointed land, mirrored on the east by a complimentary thumb of land, creating two eddies and a sheltered place along a convenient crossing, as well as good fishing spots. Just a couple of years ago, another place of the Ancestors where they hunted and enjoyed the berries of summer more than 8,000 years ago was destroyed for traffic purposes. Like this, one after another place where Ancestors lived and died has been erased – no signs, no kiosks, no preserved land, no memory in the community. Northampton held and still holds many Indigenous legacy places people can be found for thousands of years, and for more than 300 years, continual demolition and rebuilding has erased them without account or review.
Last night, more than 80 citizens came out to tell the Massachusetts DOT “No” in no uncertain terms. In a process that uses “manufactured consent” to create a hologram of democracy, government time, staff and money is used to propagandize the public in these engagements. The comment aspect of this engagement is legally nothing more than shouting into the void: no mater how unanimous the rejection of a plan, there is no requirement to change in response.
MA DOT did not notice this meeting to either of the federally-recognized tribes that asked to be informed, as part of their Dept. of the Interior, Section 106 entitlement: John Brown of the Narragansett and Mark Andrews of the Aquinnah Wampanoag. Mr. Andrews took part in some phases of the investigation as well. Though MA DOT also consulted with Stockbridge Munsee Mohican earlier in the project, they did not notify this party either. Local descendants of Kwenitekwuk nations, like Norwottuck, Agawam, Pocumtuck, Nashawe, Sokoki, etc. were also not notified as far as we can determine. Local Native descendants and tribal members who identified themselves and requested notification during earlier engagements were not notified of this meeting either. There are 17 Native peoples of Massachusetts that have petitioned for and not recevied recognition.
Background on the MA DOT public presentation and comment section are here:
On last-minute notice, Mark Andrews, Cultural Resources Officer for Aquinnah Wampanoag nation, participated in the meeting, though lack of notice caused them to miss part of the process. Greg Skibiski, representing the present-day family that owned the appropriated parcel, also participated. Many local and regional citizens made impassioned and thoughtful statements questioning the process, the benefits of the project, the legality of the project, the morality and ethics of the project, and the need for the project. A range of alternative ideas were proposed. The issue of equal rights to historic preservation and Massachusetts policy against racial discrimination in historic preservation were supported with strong objections. The meeting, scheduled for one hour, persisted for three hours.
The investigating archaeologist, Dr. David Leslie, recommended this Nayyag site for the National Register of Historic Places, but MA DOT officials played down all value and ignored that recommendation. Notably, the entire panel representing the Commonwealth was all-White, all-male. By contrast, the People who came to speak in support of Nayyag and preservation overall were diverse in gender, ethnicity, race, and motivation. Business owners objected to the plan. Local residents objected to the plan. The only tribal officer who accessed the meeting objected to the plan, and sharply questioned the conclusions of the DOT’s staff archaeologist, whose conflict of interest in this case is obvious. Mr. Skibiski also sharply critiqued DOT misinterpretation of the archaeological report.
Participants from the People posed deep questions and made great suggestions. There is a MEPA process that follows, which is another opportunity to turn on the pressure to do the right thing. More importantly, we must deconstruct this process and turn it into a transparent and restoratively just process. Comments on this project are open until March.
The link to the DOT comment file on the Hadley Street – Nayyag – roundabout is here:
You can listen yourself to the Struggle for Preservation at Nayyag at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/luklmqaeqvlz32r/17FEB2021%20MassDOT%203h%20public%20meeting.m4a?dl=0
Pulbic Testimony for Nayyag -
The meeting was chock full of points that deserve careful attention.
(please contact us with any corrections, to add information about yourself, or other concerns)
44:00 - B. Skinner asks why DOT is going ahead with this project when the tribes object to it and don't want it?
47:23 MassDOT Jamie (Jameson Harwood): “The nature of this meeting was to present the project and what was done rather than debate a lot of the issues”
Written comment: So are you saying we are talking into the wind? Are you saying that you are taking time and funds to sit and hear, but not listen or change?
50:30 - Local Descendant Mohawk-Nashawe and Chair of MEAS Nohham Cachat asks why the state is allowing serial destruction of Native legacy all over Northampton, including several at Nayyag, while Colonial sites are being preserved, and why there is not equal preservation of hisotric heritage?
58:00- L. Langa asks how this project is not violating law by destroying a 10,000 year old unique site that was recommended for NRHP preservation?
Written question (not answered) - Why is David Leslie, the archaeologist who worked on this site, not speaking for this project? Why is a DOT-payrolled archaeologist speaking when there's obvious conflict of interest inherent in their participation?
1:00:01 - Greg Skibiski, Initiating and Organizing Advocate for the Site and Resident Property Owner, challenges the DOT intrepretation of the report, complains that federally recognized Native American tribes are not being notified according to agreement. and asks what alternatives were looked at regarding Native sites in the project? Gives statement that no evaluation of alternatives was done after discovery of the Native site (violation of 106 and MEPA)
1:09:00 - Why not use traffic lights? Isn't this really a short term solution, a $3.5 million band-aid? Don't we need to plan for much more growth and a long-term solution like diverting traffic to main destinations?
1:19:00 Gia Neswald - comments that the language DOT is using is misleading on factual basis, and notes that there ARE alternatives to building a roundabout on ground level. Also, DOT's language assumes their concerns are more valuable than the Native legacy on the site. Asks how many fatalities have occured at the site? Are there fatalities at the site? Are we talking about this case in point?
Answer is NO, there are no fatalities in the area of the proposed traffic circle.
1:22:00 - accident stats, they based the need for roundabout on a 5-year study that indicated 3 injuries and 11 property damage only in that period
1:25:00 - DOT acknowledges that alternatives are possible, but they decided those "didn't seem like a practical alternative," and notes private property, BUT the Skibiski property was also private.
Christopher Beach Eddy asks 3 questions about the declared rights of indigenous people being honored and didn’t receive one answer. I also submitted a comment to the official DOT website.
1:26:18 - Mark Andrews, Cultural Resources Officer of Aquinnah Wampanoag comments that he was not notified of this meeting, that he disagrees with the interpretation and characterization by DOT of the Indigenous Legacy site, and that he thinks there is a major portion of the site that can be saved and cites design assumptions that could be challenged and provide for preservation. Mr. Andrews says the presence of numerous points and debitage indicates "longterm habitation," which is supported by Dr. Leslie's statement anticipating the presence of hearths and longterm habitation.
1:45:00 - Mark Andrews closing statement
1:46:00 - Jose Lugo, Mexica Native Resident, Restorative Justice Educator asked: Is the design alternative to continue with this design plan, and why can't alternatives include using eminent domain to take land necessary to execute an alternative?
1:48:48 - Leah Wing - Public discourse process makes resolution difficult because this comes too late in the process. Why can't we create a better process?
Part of the problem is not releasing the archaeological report until very late, not informing the public about the problems with the project, and neglecting the protests and objections of local Native residents and descendants throughout the project.
DOT lies and says, "there was no opposition to the project when it was advertised," not true, there were vehement objections and a petition resulted with over 50,000 signatures in opposition when the public became aware.
1:53:22 - Kenneth Leslie Hall - Lee Hall, asks about schematics/plans and questions DOT claims that there will be increased traffic coming south on Route 5, where there is no traffic source? Also, where is the cited traffic coming from the west?
Don Wakoluk, Shay Democrat, who alerted many to this meeting, says his question was not answered.
John Skibiski, former Trustee of Historic Northampton and Resident former owner of the site property, says his questions were not answered. * see below for more information
1:56:58 Eric Russe questions the use of "industry standards" as the repeated reason for violating Native American heritage preservation priorities, when genocide and other crimes have historically and recently been "industry standard." Asks DOT to listen to Indigenous concerns even if they don't conform to the process, because the process doesn't allow tribes time to jump through all the hoops when they have a small staff and limited means. Notes that their charts do not account for the costs of cultural loss.
When the tribes like the Narragansett were notified, how much effort did they make to consult?
2:04:00 - Rochelle Prunty, General Manager for River Valley Co-Op says,"We commented about our concerns way before the plan was developed, again in 2017 when it was at 25% design we formally objected and all our neighboring businesses did as well. And we’ve objected ever since. We heard from you tonight that the Native American Groups didn’t comment before the importance of the site was understood, so they lost the opportunity for their comments to make an impact on the outcome of preservation. We supported preservation of the site since its importance was known to us. This is the first public meeting since the archaelogical site was discovered in 2018 and tonight you stated that you have the right to proceed and you are going forward as you have already planned. This makes me wonder if there is ever a point where anyone’s concerns actually get any consideration in this process?”
2:08:50 - Rob Moss asks Jamie (DOT Archaeologist) why investigation seems to support Mr. Andrews' interpretation of long-term habitation, when DOT said there wasn't? Also, why can't we preserve the site until less invasive technology and methods can be used? What about erasure? Most people here did not even know about the other site that was destroyed on Route 9, and so that's erasure, what can be done about that?
Answer is bizarrely off-topic and talks about tree throws. Report indicates that there was evidence of hearths just outside the test pits in the form of vitrified (fired) rocks, so this was a habitation site. Admits that there are several sites just outside the project in a nearby park and by the river just nearby, but do not consider that in their plans. In other words, they are ignoring the fact that the site is part of an archaeologically rich and unique area that holds sites from all periods.
2:13:18 - Matt Adams, Director of North East's Historical Stone Structures Investigation and Exploration notes that the State is constituted to serve the People, and the People are speaking unanimously against destroying this site, but DOT is ignoring that.
What exaclty does "data mitigation plan" mean? Does it mean you essentially destroy the site and the artifacts removed, or does it mean non-invasive methods are used and the site is preserved? Also asks about nearby sites mentioned that have not been investigated and why not, since those sites can really change the context of this site? Why has Mass DOT not respeced the recommendation for NRHP listing and preservation and the wishes of Native people and come up with an alternative design?
DOT reiterated claims that were debunked earlier in the meeting.
2:22:40 - Why not lower the speed limit? Other states don't have roundabouts and they do fine. Why not use traffic lights with a lower speed limit? Written comment: My home town has several special low-speed zones, including the historic district, on unchanging terrain and no fatalities, so it's not true that you can't do this.
DOT claims you can't change speed limits and that police can't enforce laws ?!?
2:27:54 - Eileen GP requests a link to the archaeology slides.
2:30:00 - Amy Martin What is the data on the number of crashes at that intersection and how does that compare to other places in Northampton?
answered previously, but no comparison. no fatalities.
2:31:47- Anthony Cignoli aks What does "mitigated" mean and what does it mean for this site?
2:37:00 Host: "There's a handful of questions about notification" of various forms to various entities and persons.
2:38:45 Has the DOT tried to work with impacted businesses?
2:39:30 - Adele Franks questions the traffic conflict diagram presented by the DOT engineer in that it shows a 4-way intersection compared to a traffic circle when this intersection is properly a Y intersection. Doesn't that greatly change the dynamics of the conflict and make your model unsuited to this case?
MEAS quick answer: absolutely true. The model shown does not suit the case being examined. Franks pinned some bad science here. Truth be told, there were a good half-dozen points where bad science is pinned in this record. Check back through and pin some more if you'd like.
Written comment not answered: The speed limit is 35 mph, so why are sever accidents even a concern, and isn't it the basic fact that there are no fatal accidents here and you're spending 3.5 million and destroying NRHP level Native site over small, everyday accidents?
2:41:19 - Alex Resli Schroeder asks if DOT is aware that 55,000 people have signed a petition to stop this project and thousands have taken the time to write comments agains this, as well as Native opposition, the impacts on businesses destruction of this important site and millions of dollars this will cost?
2:45:40 Sarah (no last name) Why not make the street one way and avoid the left turn there?
2:48:20 Laura Wallace Why not eliminate this intersection and reroute traffic?
2:50:00 Peter Hanson - What can be done to avoid irreparable damage? Please continue to work with Mr. Andrews and Native Americans those whose of the Connecticut River Valley who do not have recognition. Safety and flow are concerns, but pedestrian concerns do not seem to be addressed, and roundabouts are known to discourage pedestrian traffic, and what do these compare to the Ancient legacy of New England.
2:51:00 - Wayne Feiden stating that the roundabout is more about safety for cyclists and pedestrians
Send us your own time stamps for points during the meeting that stand out for you corrections, or YOUR comments about Nayyag and Equal Historic Preservation.
Thanks to Land Protectors and Allies.
* John Skibiski, age 90, currently the oldest acttive licensed real estate agent in Massachusettsis a former Trustee of Historic Northampton, Founder and former President of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts, and proposed to Northampton’s City Council the acquisition of Fitzgerald Lake and environs - nextdoor to the site of concern - for conservation purposes. Since 1977, it has become the City’s largest conservation zone and protects part of historic Nayyag.