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Native American Group Protests First Tennessee Park Project

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Photo: Video by NewsChannel5.com

Native American Group Protests First Tennessee Park Project

CREATED May 22, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Construction on First Tennessee Park is on schedule for the Nashville Sounds to begin the 2015 season just north of downtown next April. As crews race towards that goal, some worry they're wasting an opportunity to uncover some of Nashville's ancient history.

"We can't get them to even return phone calls,” said Albert Bender with the American Indian Coalition.

The group protested outside the future home of the Sounds, Thursday night. Protesters said crews and the Mayor's office have not done enough to look into ancient artifacts that were found.

"This is just the first of many protests. The next one we even go out to the Mayor's house," said Bender.

Bender, along with others, met with Metro leaders last month to ask them to halt construction and dig deeper after crews uncovered artifacts experts said prove the area was once a Native American metropolis where people extracted salt from the Sulphur Spring.

That’s where he said talks abruptly ended.

"We can only feel at this point that the meeting was just a sham, just window dressing,” Bender said.

They’re asking the ballpark construction be put on hold as well as any unearthed findings to be incorporated into the stadium's design.

Thursday, Mayor Karl Dean’s office released the following statement:

"We have asked the ballpark project team to look at ways to pay homage to the Native American history in that area, and they will be working toward a proper commemoration to be included in the final ballpark and green way design. We will continue to keep Mr. Bender and his group informed as that work develops. Construction of the ballpark continues, which previously was communicated to Mr. Bender and his group."

Wednesday, project managers at Gobbell Hays Partners sent the group a letter asking to meet again to find out how to properly commemorate the site's history.

Not digging any further, Bender said, means there's no way to know what could be down beneath the surface.

"Then we don't know all the valuable information that will be lost,” Bender said. “There is so much information to be obtained from further archeological excavations dealing with the ancient history of Nashville.”

The group has nicknamed the area "Salt Town". Bender said Thursday if they don’t see some progress they could continue demonstrations, even if it means protesting at the Historic Courthouse or Mayor Dean's home.

Bender said only delaying the ballpark a few months will not hamper Sounds fans.