Remains of the Day

More than a dozen Indian burials have been discovered during light-rail construction

Anton says his community would prefer the burials not be disturbed at all, but there is some comfort in ensuring the ancestors are well taken care of, as opposed to carelessly crushed by development or put on display in a museum.

"We want to protect them. It feels better to take them and repatriate them to the community so we can put them to rest," he says. "We don't want them disrespectfully displayed."

And it's not just remains that the tribe wants to look after. During the planning of the Transit Center, a building that will act as a hub for buses, light rail, city transit operations and bicycle commuters, there was some controversy over the placement of the building. The land for the center sits directly in front of Hayden Butte — or "A" Mountain — an extremely important site to the ancient Hohokam and their ancestors, though the tribe keeps the religious history of the land private.

When humans dig around to build something new, archaeology happens.
Mark Poutenis
When humans dig around to build something new, archaeology happens.

Richardson says the placement of the building close to the Tempe police station is a direct result of working to please the SRPMIC and its desire to preserve views of the butte.

"Sacred is subjective," Anton says. "We didn't build cathedrals or churches, but where we live and where we worship, how we pray — those things are sacred. When buildings get built, earth is disturbed, or, more specifically, burials are disturbed — that kind of sullies the sacredness."

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