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Still no answers in Native American burial grounds controversy in Fort Myers

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 18:51:34-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A North Carolina-based real estate development company still has not responded to questions from Fox 4 about possible Native American burial grounds or artifacts on the site of a new apartment complex starting to go up in downtown Fort Myers.

Mayor Kevin Anderson said Wednesday that he has directed the city attorney to contact the attorney for Zimmer Development to request copies of any reports they have done on the property, including an archaeological study of the site that was conducted this year.

The findings of that study are still not available to the public.

People like Natalie De La Torre Salas, an archaeologist with Florida Atlantic University and Fort Myers residents, are concerned that the site on First and Fowler Street could contain artifacts or burial grounds which date back to the Seminole War in the 1850s.

“I’m glad that the Mayor spoke about this, and that this issue continues to get media coverage," says De La Torres Salas.

She gave Fox 4 historical contexts of the site, talking about what it was used for.

“We do know that there are civilians, prisoners, and other people that would have lived here that would have been buried here as well. So we know that there are Native American burials here, we just don’t know all of that information, because the most emphasis has been given to the military context of the site," she says.

She also says that she and her colleagues have been trying to contact Zimmer Development for months to try to retrieve the findings of the site's study.

“To this day, we have received zero answers from them," she says. “What could be the reason for not sharing it with the people of Fort Myers? With appropriate officials, with us archaeologists that just want to protect and tell the story of the past of this site."

Mayor Anderson told Fox 4 there is nothing the city can do right now to stop or put suspend the project as the city, also, wants to see the results of the company’s archaeology study on this land.