Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Matthew Root's Response

Matthew Root has answered my post on the Pullman City Cemetery. He had originally responded in the comments, but I had to shut the comments section down as someone posted some derogatory comments about Dr. Root. I want him to have his fair chance to respond. Contrary to what he thinks, this is not a personal attack on him. I simply have some questions. And he has graciously answered some of them.
I am Matthew Root and this anonymous, personal attack upon me and my motives in providing information to the City of Pullman about the City Cemetery is shameful and cowardly. I regularly work with developers so that they can obtain their construction permits and proceed with their projects. Contrary to the writer's uninformed critique of my motives, in writing Mark Workman about the cemetery, I ensured that my company would NOT be hired because it would have the appearance of a conflict of interest. Furthermore, the developer, not the city hires cultural resource consultants, and I have no interest in being hired for this project. It is my understanding that Eastern Washington University will be conducting the study of the cemetery. They are highly qualified with expertise in historic cemeteries. They are a very good choice for the project and I commend Wal-Mart in hiring them.
Whether Mark Workman and the writer think that the presence of unmarked graves is speculative is irrelevant. The cemetery once did occupy ten acres of land to the north of its present location. This is a fact, not conflicting information on an old map. The map that I referenced is the Government Land Office Plat Map for the City of Pullman – that is the official survey of the city. No one knows whether any graves are present in this area or not, but it is a simple matter to find out, and that is why a survey is now required.

Perhaps the writer does not care if bulldozers destroy unmarked graves, but I, along with many of Pullman’s residents, do care. I wrote Mark Workman out of that concern, not because I needed a job. You may be interested to know that Wal-Mart is now required to conduct a ground penetrating radar survey of the ten acres in their planned development that were once part of the cemetery before construction can proceed. (Sonar, by the way, is used underwater and would be quite useless for the cemetery study.)

If no unmarked graves are discovered, Great! Let the shopping begin! If, however, an unmarked grave is found, it can be properly preserved and moved to a new location so that construction can proceed. I would hope that this would make everyone happy, even the ghoulish writer who seems so unconcerned about the dead.

At Rain Shadow Research, we are currently busy working cooperatively with many developers so that they can build golf courses, vacation homes, and river front housing developments. I often perform these studies for individuals and for rural counties at far below the going rates and without compensation for myself. I do this because I understand that SEPA and NHPA regulations are burdensome and that not everyone can afford the full price of such work. We have a long list of clients who are very appreciative of our efforts. These people understand the need to conduct archaeological surveys before development so that they do not unexpectedly disturb important historic sites and burials. I suggest that the writer contact Fritz Hughes at the Pullman Chamber of Commerce for a character reference for me and my company. I do not care whether there is a Wal-Mart in Pullman or not. They have every right to come to Pullman, and if some people don't like Wal-Mart, they can chose to shop and work elsewhere.

This uninformed and false attack upon my character is truly shameful. If you really have an interest in the cemetery issue and want to learn more about it, I invite you to give me a call at Rain Shadow Research and schedule an appointment. You apparently have our number.
I do still have a few questions left.

I am very interested in the timing of the whole "lost cemetery" issue. The letter to the editor below from Marcie Gilliland, PARD Co-Secretary, appeared in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the day AFTER Matthew Root's letter appeared. In my experience, letters to the editor are never published that quickly and Ms. Gilliland never mentions Dr. Root's letter, only a neighbor that she chatted with several weeks ago. Ms. Gilliland used almost the exact same words as did Dr. Root (i.e. "non-Euro-Americans", etc.) No accusations though. Maybe he IS the neighbor she refers to in the letter. Just one of those things that make you go "Hmmmmm."

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a neighbor about how I had learned that trees around the Pullman Cemetery might be torn down for construction for the proposed Wal-Mart (Pleas refer to the blueprints with the city.)

From this accidental conversation, I have learned of several errors that the city and Wal-Mart have made regarding the assessment of this proposed site. I have learned that cemeteries can indeed be registered as historical places. I have learned that an intentional grove of trees built around a cemetery can be a historical landscape. I have learned that there is a 400-foot boundary difference between the 190 plat mats and the current maps of Pullman. I have been reminded of the fact that Wal-Mart does not care about the integrity of community, history, and enironmentalism.

I am very concerned about pre-1900 residents who may be buried in that cemetery.

In addition to the rich heritage visible in the cemetery itself. a hidden history may lay there as well. Oftentimes, non-Euro-Americans were not afforded complete, identifiable gravestones, such as Native Americans and Chinese laborers. These early inhaitants of the Palouse nay be resting outside of the known plat boundaries. Wal-Mart has repeatedly dug up and built over existing cemeteries (Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, and Vancouver, British Columbia).

I am now painfully aware of how one of Pullman's most sacred places might be altered, destroyed and otherwise shadowed by a behemoth super cemter that is sure to wreck many visual landscapes. I am wondering how long-time citizens in Pullman feel about this? I am wondering if those folks have been informed.

How can the city not demand a comprehensive analysis of this existing cemetery by way of sonar scanning the entire original plat map boundaries?
I'm sure Ms. Gilliland and I both appreciate Dr. Root clarifying the whole sonar versus ground-penetrating radar issue.

The Wal-Mart site has been zoned C-3 for 23 years now. Why hasn't the "lost cemetery" been an issue before now. Why wasn't it raised back in October of last year when Wal-Mart first announced its plans. Then the cemetery boundaries could have been addressed in the first SEPA application. Why wait until Wal-Mart released its SEPA application? This has delayed the approval process.

In any case, along with Dr. Root, I also commend Wal-Mart for their efforts. I hope he will write another letter to the editor to share the positive views he has posted here. Residents need to know that no matter the outcome of the survey, Wal-Mart will continue to take appropriate action and complete construction of their store.

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