Western New York Maritime Charter School wants to build a high school and gym complex on Buffum Street in South Buffalo, partially on what was once a Seneca Nation cemetery. Archeologists hired to investigate are close to finishing the first phase of their study.
When the school project was approved by City Hall, there was little attention paid to the land's history with Indian nations, several of them. Once the plan came into public notice, questions arose about the former Indian burial ground at the end of the block, marked with a monument.
With many Indians living on what was once the Seneca Buffalo Creek Reservation, there were more questions. Maritime Charter decided on an archeological examination.
"The one that we are doing is a little bit more intense and just want to make sure that we're very attuned to the Senecas and what their wishes are and we don't want to step on their toes," said Maritime Administrative Service Director David Comerford. "We honor their tribal history and so we want to do this in accordance to all the rules and in cooperation with them."
Comerford said the archeological study went through the city Planning Board procedure. That included a meeting with former Seneca President Todd Gates and working with Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Jay Toth.
Comerford said there are probably two other phases of the study, after this phase is approved in Albany by the New York State Historic Preservation Office. He said the school wants to recognize the land's history, through archeologists.
"Once they turn that stuff over, SHPO would probably say the level of detail, closer test pits, other types of mechanical things that we could maybe test."
Comerford said there does not appear to be any surviving records of a cemetery from when the city built School 70 almost a century ago, now Maritime's elementary school. He said the city did some unsucessful research on that when the new complex was before the regulatory agencies.