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Dollar General in Micanopy draws Native opposition

Micanopy residents have been protesting plans for the construction of a Dollar General store in their town. The
proposed location is near Tuscawilla Road in the Micanopy Native American Preserve. It’s in the vicinity of a Native American burial mound and the site of the Battle of Micanopy – fought during the Second Seminole War.

Several activists and residents of the town, which is about 12 miles south of Gainesville, want it built elsewhere or not
built at all.

Members of the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA) – with a presence on Facebook – argue that its construction would
be no different than if a Dollar General was to be built on a non-Native cemetery.

“If you won’t build it on Arlington National Cemetery [in Virginia] then why desecrate Indigenous cemeteries and build
on them? If you won’t tear down St. Peter’s Basilica [in Vatican City] for a condo, why destroy Native sacred sites? What is the disconnect? Is it that the dominant society does not view Native people as human?” the group said in a recent post.

This historical sign states that Micanopy means “head chief,” a title awarded to the leader of the Alachua Seminoles. (Courtesy photo)

The FIA describes itself as a statewide Indigenous organization “dedicated to the human, civil, treaty and sovereignty rights of the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.” The Seminole Tribe’s Martha Tommie is a member of the group. She spoke in opposition to the Dollar General at a September public meeting with the Alachua County Development Review Committee (DRC).

“I tried to stand for our people, our culture and traditions,” Tommie, of the Brighton Reservation, told the Tribune. “I was very humble when I got up there. I thought about my ancestors and what they went through. I look back and see how our elders were treated – I want people to know what’s going on over there.”

Tommie is an activist who has traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. She has also been part of public demonstrations to advocate for the release of Leonard Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement who has been in prison since 1977.

“I went [to Micanopy] because I know some people that stand for the water and it’s time to stand for the land where our ancestors are laid. I have young kids coming up and it’s important to me,” Tommie said.

The DRC voted to approve the final development plan for the Dollar General on Sept. 9 – a move the FIA quickly condemned. The status of the project is unclear, however, due to the denial of a scenic road variance request – sent by the developer to Alachua County. Tuscawilla Road is one of six scenic roads in the county and has different guidelines and criteria for developers, such as limits on truck size and weight.

It’s unclear whether a denial of the variance would derail the project completely. According to a news report by National Public Radio affiliate WUFT News, a dispute resolution process is now in progress. Attorney Marcy LaHart is representing neighbors near the proposed site.

Tribal member Martha Tommie, shown here in 2019, is involved in several Indigenous causes. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The news report said some residents aren’t against the idea of a Dollar General – just the location. They are concerned that tractor-trailers will ruin the road, clip the old trees and create noise, the report said. LaHart said the area’s ecosystem contains a lot of wildlife, including gopher turtles, cranes and coyotes. Truck drivers might not stop for turtles crossing the road, he said.

In addition, the FIA said it requested the DRC conduct an archaeological survey because of the site’s location. But the
FIA said the request was ignored and that the testimony of Indigenous peoples was disregarded in favor of a single archeologist who was “beholden to the developer.”

Connect with the FIA on Facebook at facebook.com/FlaIndianAlliance.org.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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