Burial Ground Under Alamo Stirs A Texas Feudal

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Burial Ground Under Alamo Stirs A Texas Feudal

SAN ANTONIO – Raymond Hernández was a boy when his grandfather took him on a walk to the Alamo, pointing to the grounds surrounding the Spanish mission established in the 18th century.

“He used to tell me over and over, ‘He built this all over our Campo Santo,'” Mr Hernandez, 73, said, using the Spanish word for cemetery. “All the tourists who come to the Alamo are standing on the bones of our ancestors,” said an elder at the Tapa Palam Cohuiltecan Nation in San Antonio.

On a busy day, thousands of visitors explore the Alamo, the site of an important 1836 battle in the Texas Revolution where American settlers fought to break away from Mexico and create a republic that would become part of the United States.

But long before the Alamo laid siege to separatists, Spanish missionaries used the site known as Mission San Antonio de Valero to spread Christianity among Native Americans. People from various tribes built the Alamo with their own hands, and missionaries buried many converts as well as colonists from Mexico and Spain near or just below the mission.

Now, a new battle is brewing over the Alamo, as Native Americans and descendants of some of San Antonio’s founding families seek protection for human remains, while Texas officials go ahead with a controversial $400 million renovation plan for the site. grow.

The feud comes at a time when political leaders in Texas are trying to bolster longstanding portrayals of the state’s history, with teachers discussing the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution and targeting hundreds of books for possible expulsion from schools. did. As critics have accused the leaders of political overreach, the controversy over the grounds of the burial has raised questions about whether the narrow focus on the 1836 Battle at the Alamo comes at the expense of the site’s Native American history.

Tepe Pullum (pronounced TAPE PEE-lam) Nation leader Ramón Vasquez criticized state officials who have resisted calls to designate the Alamo and its surroundings as a historically significant cemetery.

He compared the controversy to discussions about protecting important burial sites across the United States, such as the remains of 95 African Americans who were forced into plantation labor after emancipation that surrounded the discovery in Sugar Land, Texas, in 2018.

“We are not against telling the story of 1836,” said Mr Vasquez, whose men filed a lawsuit in 2019 seeking to change how the remains found at the Alamo were treated. “All we are asking is to tell the full story of the site. We have a rare chance to course-correct.”

In court documents filed this year, attorneys for the Texas General Land Office, the custodian of the site, and the non-profit Alamo Trust, which oversees the development plan, said that Tapa Palam’s claims to ancestral ancestry do not make them “constitutionally protected.” give. Human remains found at the Alamo have a hand in how they should be treated.

If Tapa Peele were to be given such a role, lawyers argued that the decision could set a precedent for others to trace their ancestry to someone who lived or died at the Alamo.

The courts have handed the victory to the official stewardess of the Alamo, which has been appealed by Top Polum, increasing pressure on officials in public protests and private arbitration proceedings.

His strategy has come close to delivering results, although a resolution remains elusive.

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Two people involved in the arbitration proceedings, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, said this week that Texas state officials were preparing to accept Tap Pullum’s multiple demands. Were were These include his role in gaining access to the Alamo Chapel for religious ceremonies, improving training for Alamo staff, and discussing how human remains found at the Alamo should be treated.

The parties also reached a tentative settlement, according to court documents filed this week, although the agreement will need to be approved by the San Antonio City Council and other parties for it to take effect. But in a statement on Tuesday, the land office said it would continue to fight tapa-polam in the courts.

“We are currently planning to move away from the proposed settlement,” said Stephen Chang, a spokesman for the Land Office. “The proposed arbitration – which was not finalized – was intended to put an end to these frivolous litigation.”

While this legal battle plays out, the $400 million renovation plan, which includes the construction of a 100,000-square-foot museum and visitor center, is coming under criticism.

Others have argued that the Alamo should turn its attention to the battle of 1836, which singled out folk heroes from men such as Davy Crockett, a former Tennessee lawmaker who was killed in the conflict. Brandon Burkhart, president of This Is Texas Freedom Force, whose members appeared openly armed around the Alamo to protest the changes at the site, said he resisted efforts to keep Native Americans at the center of the Alamo story.

“They don’t want to shine a light on the Alamo defenders who fought and died there for 13 days,” Mr Burkhart, a former fugitive recovery officer, said. “Well, I’ve got news for them: People from all over the world come because of that fight, not the Native Americans who preceded them.”

It appears that Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is intent on addressing such concerns. “The plan to restore and preserve the Alamo focuses on the battle of 1836 and the defenders who gave their lives for their freedom,” Bush said in a statement.

Recent tensions have shed light on important phases of the state’s indigenous history. Texas was home to hundreds of tribes such as the Anadarco and Karancawa when Spanish missionaries arrived in San Antonio in the 1700s.

The burial records of the Alamo include the names of hundreds of individuals from many different tribes. For example, in 1745, priests spoke of performing the last rites of the Siphem Indian child Konpunda. In 1748, Valentino Alfonso, an adult Mesquite Indian, and in 1755, an adult Yapandi Indian, Magdalena, were laid to rest.

After Texas seceded from Mexico in 1836, Mirabeau Lamar, who presided over the independent republic in 1838, reversed an appeasement policy toward Native Americans enacted by his predecessor, Sam Houston.

Mr Lamar instead explicitly called a “devastating war” against the tribes in Texas. As a result of this ethnic cleansing campaign, some indigenous people were completely wiped out; Others were eventually forced to relocate to Indian territory that is now largely Oklahoma.

“There was a state-sanctioned program of genocide during the Republic of Texas period,” said Raul Ramos, a historian at the University of Houston who has written extensively on the Alamo. Texas is now home to only three federally recognized tribes, the Alabama-Kushatta, Tigua, and Kickapoo.

The Alamo issue has also raised new questions about who qualifies as indigenous. Similar to other groups, such as the Genizaros in New Mexico and Colorado, some of whom began to identify as indigenous after learning of the descendants of enslaved Indians, the Tap Pulam have decided against seeking federal recognition, saying it Claiming that it is up to tribal members, not the central government, to determine whether they are Native American.

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Tapa Palam, whose religious practices blend peyote rituals with Catholic traditions, has over 1,000 registered tribal members. Their leaders have recently created a for-profit corporation to train Native American entrepreneurs in areas such as carpentry and construction. The Tāp Plam estimates that there are over 100,000 people in San Antonio alone who are descendants of Indians who once lived at the Alamo and other Spanish missions in Texas.

Still, the lack of federal recognition has served in his lawsuit against Tapa Pullam on the burial ground. He filed suit in 2019 after being barred from using the Alamo Chapel to perform private annual services, during which he apologized to his ancestors.

That same year, the Texas Historical Commission officially rejected a request to designate approximately 10 acres around the Alamo as a cemetery, which would have established more stringent handling standards for any human remains, instead Rather than simply designating the Mission-era church as a cemetery.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of three bodies in excavations at the Alamo in 2019. But instead of consulting with Top Pullum about how to proceed, the Alamo Trust relied on five federally recognized tribes, none of which are based in Texas. (The Lipan Apache, a state-recognized tribe in Texas, have signed on as an ally of the Tap Pullum in the dispute.)

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, commonly known as NAGPRA and enacted in 1990, was intended to provide more careful control over the removal of Native American human remains. But Tapa Palam, who used mission birth and death records in the early 18th century to trace his lineage to Indians in the Alamo, is angry at being sidelined by the Alamo’s managers.

As the conflict progresses, more people are paying attention to the buried records of the Alamo and looking for ancestral connections. Tāp Plam estimates that about 80 percent of those buried around the mission were Native American.

People of various backgrounds remain, such as Juan Blanco, a free black man who was a Mexican soldier on the frontier before being killed by Apache Indians in 1721. One of the last to be buried at the Alamo, 1833, was Antonio Aloza, the Cuban-born commander of Mexican troops in Texas.

Lisa Santos, president of the 1718 Founding Families and Descendants, a group of descendants of San Antonio’s founders, said she was stunned to learn that their ancestors were also buried in the Alamo Cemetery.

His ancestors, Bicente Guerra, who died in 1725, and his widow, María Cepeda, who died less than a year later, are believed to have been buried near a federal building opposite the Alamo.

“I don’t know how to go against the government when they deny that our ancestors had burial sites,” Ms Santos said. “Sometimes I just look up at the sky and I think, What’s stopping them from telling the truth?”

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