Native American Graves Shrugged

In 1997 I started documenting the development of the new mega shopping center near Charlotte Pike and Davidson Drive in West Nashville. The limestone rocks photographed here, were just some of the components of 141 Native-American Stone Box graves containing 173 individuals discovered during the excavation. Artifacts recovered date back as far as the Paleoindian Period (12,000-10,000 BC).

The remains were warehoused for a period of time, and then reinterred at an undisclosed location in Brookmeade Park at Kelley’s Point Battlefield. They are more than likely being camped on, and fowled by, human waste and garbage today. This is a shameful despicable desecration of indigenous people.

“The greatest distinction within the data set explored here is the Kelley’s Battery site (40DV392) and the two excavated cemeteries (Figure 8). A total of 141 burials yielded the remains of 173 individuals at the Kelley’s Battery site.” 1

1997 Protest of the Walmart/ Lowes Super Center in West Nashville

“The Kelley’s Battery site (40DV392) is a multi-component prehistoric site located on the Cumberland River in western Davidson County, Tennessee. Salvage excavations were conducted in 1998 prior to destruction of the site by development. Evidence of Paleoindian through Mississippian period occupations was recovered. Of particular interest is the excavation of two Mississippian stone-box cemeteries and associated village. An overview of the excavation is presented along with investigation results. A single radiocarbon date of 670+60 B.P. with a single-sigma calibrated range of AD 1282-1390 was obtained for the Mississippian occupation. The excavation and analysis results determined the Mississippian occupation of Kelley’s Battery comprised a nucleated village primarily occupied during the period of regional decentralization (AD 1325-1425).” 1

Kelley’s Point Stone Box Grave Components circa 1998

“Mississippian Indians in Middle Tennessee usually lined their burials with large limestone slabs. They placed slabs on each side, and at the head and foot of the grave, carefully cutting and joining them. The body was placed in the stone coffin face up and fully extended. A stone slab was used as a cover, and a layer of earth, from a few inches to a few feet deep, was spread over the top. This type of burial is called a stone-box grave. Mississippian people in other areas of the Southeast also used this method when easily worked stone was available.” 2

The siege of the park by homeless started around 2018 and exploded in 2020. The city of Nashville has yet to enforce a variety of laws being violated in the city park including camping, open fires, littering, loitering, defecating, drug use and more. The Metro Greenway has been deemed unusable and unsafe. Crime in the area has risen around the camp. At least 8 individuals have lost their lives to overdoses in the last 2 years. Neighbors surrounding the park are pushing hard for their removal and relocation to subsidized housing and/or treatment for a variety of addiction’s and mental illnesses. reclaimbrookmeadepark.com is a grass roots group spear-heading this effort.

Additionally, the park is the site of a historic naval action, preceding the Battle of Nashville. For two weeks in December 1864, the Confederate Cavalry clashed with a half-dozen US Navy gunboats here. This was the last major offensive champaign of the American Civil War by the South and one of the largest of its kind.

August 2021 at Kelly’s Point at Brookmeade Park – photo by Bill Brewer

A New Park

One of the reasons Brookmeade Park was a magnet for a homeless camp was it’s under utilization. Most people in the area never knew it was there because it is hidden from view under the immense amount of invasive plant undergrowth.3

As soon as the residents of this park are relocated to suitable living conditions, a plan needs to be in place to ensure the parks activity with the local population. There are a variety of possible options for this 14 acre scenic parcel of river-front property. Suggestions include:

  • Soccer Field
  • Native American Living History Village (virtual reality option)
  • Dog Park
  • Invasive Plant Removal and Native Hardwood Tree Planting
  • U.S. “Brown-water” Navy Memorial (virtual reality option)
  • Expansion of the Greenway across the river to Bell’s Bend Park

See a 3D visualization of what this park could look like here.


  1. Interpretation of the Structure and Variation of Middle Cumberland Mississippian Stone-Box Cemeteries (40DV392) – J. Scott Jones↩︎
  2. http://www.nativehistoryassociation.org/noelcemetery.php↩︎
  3. https://www.weedwrangle.org↩︎

#nativehistory #brookmeadepark #nhaorg

2 thoughts on “Native American Graves Shrugged

  1. Pingback: A Virtual Native Village – BNA Bucket list

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