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IN LARRYVILLE: THE PEOPLE SPEAK OUT

Following up on yesterday's story concerning the proposed South Lawrence Trafficway in Lawrence Kansas, nearly 700 people turned up last night at a public hearing called by the US Army Corps of Engineers to give comments on the project. The 15-mile trafficway was designed to connect traffic from Kansas 10 on the city's southeast side to Interstate 70 on the northwest side. A 9-mile section, from I- 70 to U.S. 59, has been open since 1996. The last leg has been stalled for 10 years because of opposition from Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) located in Lawrence, and environmental groups. City and county leaders support of building along a 32nd Street route which was slightly south of the original proposed location of the project. But Haskell and environmental groups made it clear their opposition is as strong as ever. "We have an obligation to protect what is there," Haskell Board of Regents member Jackie Mitchell testified at the public hearing. "Leave this land as it is." An alternative route offered by the Corps of Engineers which goes still further south is not opposed by Haskell or the environmental groups. The corps' evaluation of the two routes shows that the 32nd Street route comes out ahead in terms of cost, safety and compliance with the city's land-use plan, said Donald Curtis Jr., commander of the corps for the Kansas City district. But the 42nd Street route does a better job of addressing concerns about the Indian culture, the wetlands and the historic nature of the Haskell property.

Haskell, which uses the wetlands just south of its campus for spiritual practice and for research in its science classes, considers the wetlands sacred ground. Its students and alumni maintain that the wetlands served as burial grounds to Indians who attended Haskell in the school's early days. Environmental groups opposing destruction of the wetlands include the Kansas Sierra Club and the Jayhawk Audubon Society.

Ken Bordeau Three Feathers, an elder for three affiliated Sioux tribes, opened the public hearing with a traditional American Indian prayer. He solemnly chanted, then burned sweet grass before taking the microphone to address the crowd. He urged people to understand American Indian opposition to the 32nd Street route, which would cut through the wetlands once held by Haskell and still considered sacred as an educational and spiritual area. "Our spirituality is our culture," he said, arguing that American Indian needs should be respected and heeded. "For others to make that decision for us is a no-no."

Dozens of students from Haskell stood to support leaders of the Wetlands Preservation Organization, which opposes any road through the wetlands. Outside the hearing, more dozens of Kansas University students marched and chanted in protest of the 32nd Street Route. Opponents wore stickers declaring: "Wetlands Save it, don't pave it!" Carrie Maynard-Moody, representing the area's 500-member chapter of the Sierra Club, said building along 32nd Street would cause an irrevocable loss to a valuable resource." To us, it's our Central Park," she said, likening the wetlands to New York City's signature green space. "Would New Yorkers allow the New York Department of Transportation to build a highway through their Central Park?"

Business leaders followed the advice of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and showed up to support plans for the 32nd Street route. "The 32nd Street route is the one that preserves the wetlands," said Sue Hack, Lawrence mayor. "This will be a model for years to come of how to preserve a valuable resource." She said this even though the corps' preliminary study of the project the one that narrowed the "preferred" alternatives for the trafficway as pointed out earlier concluded that the 42nd Street route actually would be the best for the environment in terms of wetlands and cultural/historic resources. Douglas County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man before the hearing and charged him with disorderly conduct for throwing a chocolate cake at Bill Sepic, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a resolution during their 2002 Winter Session condemning the proposed trafficway, citing spiritual and historical concerns, as well as sovereignty issues. The NCAI resolution states that HINU belongs to all federally recognized tribes within the US, thus making this a national issue. The NCAI resolution cites that, "Sacred ceremonies are held on the grounds several times throughout the year", and, "the Native people of the United States continue to witness the loss and destruction of sacred lands that are critical to the preservation of traditional cultural values and beliefs."

Sources: Lawrence Journal-World, Kansas City Star, Many Voices

The Oread Daily provides daily (Monday-Friday) progressive, left, anti-racist, anarchist, commie, activist, environmental, Marxist, revolutionary, etc. news and information from around the US and around the world. The Oread Daily was a mimeographed sheet that came out first in the summer of 1970 in Lawrence, Kansas. It was irreverent, radical, spicy, revolutionary et. al. Now, three decades later it returns. To view the entire Oread Daily, please visit: groups.yahoo.com/group/OreadDaily

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