Educational center at Rolling Fork delayed

Published 1:10 am Sunday, October 24, 2010

The discovery of what officials are calling an extensive Indian burial ground will delay construction on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $6 million interpretive and educational center in Rolling Fork.

The Vicksburg Post reports the burial ground was found during excavation at the 33-acre construction site off U.S. Highway 61 North.

Philip Hollis, a Corps’ Vicksburg District senior project manager, said the find pushes off the awarding of a construction contract to at least mid-August. The project would be expected to be completed in June 2012.

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Chris Koeppel, a Corps environmental section team leader and archaeologist, said he and his team, which includes the archaeology firm Panamerican Consultants, found preserved remains, stone tools and pottery that date back to the 1300s.

“We knew this was a sensitive site, but we didn’t know how sensitive it was,” he said. “What we found was a complex site.

“If there was a village here, then they would have buried their dead around here,” Koeppel said. “The Corps does not want to disturb the burial ground.”

He said the Corps has met with local leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian tribes to work out when construction may begin.

The Corps bought the land, near the iconic Red Barn, from the Bernard Deaton family, who had owned it for about 100 years. The Red Barn, built in 1914 and which once housed show horses, was included in the purchase, and will be a part of the museum dedicated to Delta history, culture and wildlife.