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Town Council passes Native American burial law

Some argue it should have been a resolution

GREENFIELD — Town Council passed an Native American burial ordinance Wednesday night that three of its members said didn’t feel like a law and would make more sense as a resolution.

Council Vice President Hillary Hoffman, who is a member of the Council committee that helped rewrite the citizen-proposed ordinance, said she supports the ordinance as written, even though Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer said it doesn’t make sense as a law, but instead should be a resolution.

When the ordinance, which is a local law, came before the Town Council Appointments and Ordinances Committee more than a year ago, some questioned the motivation for it — during a public hearing on the big box store on French King Highway, its author had spoken against the project, leaving some to wonder if the proposed ordinance was an attempt to stop development.

Hoffman said she didn’t understand why the issue of the town passing a Native American burial and burial ground ordinance was so controversial.

She said it is time people recognize state and federal laws that protect such burial grounds.

Singer explained that the reason the town’s new law doesn’t feel like a law is because the town must already follow state and federal law and doesn’t need its own law to say so.

“Spiritually I support the idea, but I have to be careful as a councilor not to get involved in a private issue,” he said.

The ordinance states that the town will follow state and federal law and adds that a local advocate for Native Americans shall participate in the enforcement of state and federal laws if an issue should go before the state.

“If this ordinance says something, what does it say?” asked Singer. “If it says nothing, then why have it?”

Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner, Precinct 2 Councilor Alfred Siano and Hoffman, all members of the Appointments and Ordinances Committee with Singer, said they felt it will force town officials to take notice and support Native Americans if there is ever an issue.

At-large Councilor Mark Maloni said he respects Native Americans and their culture, but said he felt voting “no” would make is seem like he doesn’t.

“It says the advocate will have a seat at the table and will have local jurisdiction over state and federal law,” said Maloni. “I don’t know what ‘jurisdiction’ means in this case and whether that’s even possible.”

The local advocate would be appointed by the mayor and Native American tribes, who would work together to find the right person.

Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis said he didn’t understand a reason for such an ordinance because the town must, by law, follow state and federal laws.

In the end, Allis, Singer and Maloni voted against the ordinance, while all of the other councilors, except At-large Councilor Dalton Athey, who did not attend the meeting, voted to pass it.

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