Duke Energy cancels controversial plans to build near sacred Cherokee site

kituwah_mound.jpgDuke Energy announced this week that it would move the planned location of an electrical substation it's building out of the direct view of the sacred Cherokee site of Kituwah in western North Carolina.

The decision comes after protests from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who consider Kituwah their mother town. The site adjacent to the Tuckaseegee River in what is now Swain County, N.C. has been inhabited for nearly 10,000 years and long used as a center for religious rituals.

"Finding a new location for this important infrastructure allows us to deliver on our commitment to customers, without impacting the landscape around Kituwah," said Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy Carolinas.

Previously used as farm land by white settlers, the 300-acre site was purchased by the Eastern Band of Cherokees in 1996 in order to preserve the remaining mound, which once served as the foundation of a building that housed the Cherokees' sacred flame. Cherokee leaders likened Duke's construction plans to building an electrical substation next door to a great cathedral.

Duke is currently considering two alternative sites in Swain County, one of them inside an industrial park. The company says the current power delivery system in the area is no longer adequate to meet growing demand due in part to the expansion of Harrah's Cherokee Hotel and Casino.

"I appreciate Duke Energy's understanding of these sensitive issues and their hard work to identify alternate locations for the electrical station," said Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians.

Duke Energy's plans to build the substation within view of Kituwah was one in a series of threats to sacred Indian sites in the Southeast in recent years.

Last year another mound structure near Oxford, Ala. was used as fill dirt for the construction of a Sam's Club. Two Indian burial sites in Nashville, Tenn. were also disturbed in recent years for a Wal-Mart Supercenter and an NFL stadium, while Georgia is building a four-lane highway near a site of significance to the Muscogee people.