Claims of Indian burial site contested as I-69 Crossing team studies

Henderson Co. man claims I-69 Crossing bridge may be built on Native American burial site

HENDERSON, KY (WFIE) - A Henderson County man claims his ancient Indian ancestors are buried where the new I-69 bridge may be built.

In December, the project team identified the central alternative as the preferred route which is the same land Michael Manfox Buley claims is an Indian burial ground.

14 News reporter Evan Gorman has been digging into the man’s claims for several days.

“I am Chief of the Southern Cherokee Nation,” Buley explained.

Dressed in badge, patches and emblems, we first introduced you to Michael Buley on Tuesday.

“Just because we don’t have headstones there, doesn’t mean our people aren’t buried there,” Buley said on Tuesday.

This interview followed an I-69 crossing meeting Monday night meeting where Buley spoke publicly, saying the preferred route would disrupt Native American burial grounds.

“Pick a fight, make sure it’s a good fight,” Buley said during the meeting.

Buley showed us maps he claims were provided by an archaeologist who completed studies in the 1950’s, plus letters from various elected officials including Kentucky Governors Ernie Fletcher and John Y. Brown.

“And that’s from Judge Watkins. We grew up together. He states there he knew me for 40 years and I was definitely of descendant of the Cherokee nation,” Buley explained while showing a letter.

14 News has since learned Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky is not federally recognized.

“I wanted to be federally recognized so we could stand equal with other federally recognized tribes,” Buley told Gorman.

Buley says he has worked for more than a decade to be recognized by the federal government

“Every time we would send them what they wanted, they would send us a letter saying we need this now,” Buley added.

The application was dropped by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

14 News reached out to the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. The man we spoke with served on a council whose job it was to call out posers to prevent copy-cats.

“It’s a distortion of history that there are any such groups. The three tribes I listed as Cherokee: Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina all have had a long relationship with the federal government,” Dr. Richmond Lee Allen said by phone.

14 News asked Buley about the fact some people claim he is a con artist.

“Yeah, I mean, you’ve seen our historic documents; you’ve been to the historical society, we’re not hiding anything, we’re putting out what we have,” Buley responded.

This isn’t the first time Buley has drawn attention. He previously appeared on an episode of MonsterQuest while searching for the Spottsville monster.

The I-69 project team assigned an archaeologist to work with Buley. They met earlier this week, continuing a conversation that began several months ago. The project team describes their archaeological investigation as ‘very sensitive’ and says it is being ‘handled discreetly.’

“We’re going to take any information that is gathered and that is going to be part of our design process—part of our decision-making process,” Mindy Peterson, a project spokesperson said.

“She said they did find flint chips; they didn’t say how many, but there were quite a few, which is the left over from the arrow heads,” Buley said when asked about his meeting with the project archaeologist.

Online records show Colonel Richard Henderson bought land in Henderson from Cherokee Indians, who we’re believe to have lived in the area in the late 1700s.

“I’ve got more proof than would be needed,” Buley expressed.

PVA records show the land he claims is a burial ground is now owned by several entities.

The publication of the final environmental impact statement and record of decision are expected later this year.

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