HENDERSON, KY (WFIE) - The oldest Native American entity in Kentucky is standing their ground as the plans for the new I-69 Ohio River crossing bridge roll on.
The Chief of the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky met with an archaeologist from the crossing team after expressing concerns during a public meeting that Native American burial grounds may be disturbed in the building process.
Their roots run deep in western Kentucky.
“My family has been in this county for 8,000 years except for the time when we were removed by Andrew Jackson,” Chief Michael Manfox-Buley recalled.
A tribe known for farming, who depended heavily on the river as a resource, Chief Manfox says hundreds, possibly even thousands of his ancient ancestors are buried in the area.
“Just because we don’t have headstones there, doesn’t mean our people aren’t buried there,” Chief Manfox stated.
And that’s why he finds the proposed I-69 Ohio river crossing path problematic. He voiced concerns to the committee during Monday night’s hearing.
“It is a felony federally and state to disturb Indian burial grounds,” Chief Manfox told the committee.
But each speaker was on a time limit. On Tuesday Chief Manfox met with an archaeologist from the crossing team to show more maps and other documents, some of which were dated back more than two centuries.
“We have some maps going back to the 1700′s, shows we (the Cherokee) owned that land, and as far as I’m concerned we still own the land,” Chief Manfox said.
Among his collection were documents from two Kentucky governors recognizing his family’s heritage.
We reached out to the crossing team on Tuesday. They say they have been working with Chief ManFox and looking over his paperwork.
Chief ManFox says he plans to fight for the path to move more to the east to not disrupt the grave sites.
“I hope I wouldn’t have to do this, but if I have to, I’ll make some calls, and I’ll have some Cherokee people living underneath that area – if we have to live in tents, we’ll do it,” Chief Manfox told 14 News.
Chief ManFox is also turning to state leaders, such as the attorney general’s office to file a complaint.