COAL VALLEY, Illinois-- The Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities (NACQC) and the Sage Sisters of Solidarity made a statement Wednesday, Sept. 5, claiming landowners in Coal Valley are knowingly developing over ancient burial mounds and prehistoric sites.
"It has come to our urgent attention that there is a very real possibility that indigenous, sacred sites, burial mounds may be imminently desecrated in the area of coal valley," said Regina Tsosie, president of the NACQC and co-founder of Sage Sisters.
The groups said they have a 1961 assessment from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources identifying the ancient sites on the 91-acre plot that developers Clint Zimmerman and John Gochee own. They didn't want to specify where the burial mounds are located for fear of graverobbers and those who might dig-up artifacts to sell for profit.
"Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Goshee are well aware that there are Native American burial mounds and have chosen to disregard this fact and to continue to pursue their endeavors to put a road right through one of the mounds," Tsosie said.
However, Zimmerman claims he had an independent archeological assessment done, which determined there are no such sites on the land.
The survey, completed on July 31, 2018, by Prairie Archeology and Research, accessed and reviewed a database from the Illinois DNR and "found no reported or suspected burial mounds... or isolated human remains recorded in State or Federal data files" on the plot of land.
"We did initially contact the Native American society because the people that live on the road have known about the mounds for a long time," Jami Johnson said.
The groups strongly implied their next step could be legal action.
"If he's not willing to try to at least comply a little, then yes we will be there to fight for this," says Josie Ironshield, co-founder of Sage Sister. "Just because our ancestor doesn't have a marker, doesn't mean they're not there... It's heartbreaking and it hurts to know that somebody's loved one had gotten disturbed."
The two groups are saying they want to spread awareness about the ancient burial and historical sites that few people realize are in the area. These groups also stated they want the developers to come to the table to discuss this "serious issue."