The hill is unsightly, equal parts eyesore and embarrassment for Mayor Leon Smith and the city. There is much blame and shame to go around Oxford City Hall. There is no magic wand anyone can wave to return the hill to its prior state.
What's more, there is little trust that Oxford will protect the hill's remaining cultural significance. Time will tell if any words of reconciliation and repair spoken today may foreshadow the proper use of the hill in the future.
Given those unfortunate facts, perhaps the best outcome is a legislative one. Perhaps the legacy of this stone mound — one of countless Native American sites in Calhoun County — is that its desecration might lead to a needed revamping of the state law that should protect such cultural sites.
If so, this saga's narrative would at least have a pleasant ending: city ignores history and damages stone mound's hill; mayor disputes mound's Native American origin; legislators respond to mound controversy by updating state law.
One sad element is a harsh reminder of Goat Hill inadequacy; had Oxford's stone mound sat on a hill in Mississippi, that state's laws on the desecration of burial grounds and memorials would have protected it, a story in Wednesday's Star explained.
Sadly, however, this mound is nestled in Alabama soil, where a weak state law says it's a felony to disturb burial grounds interred in the last few hundred years, but it's not a crime to disturb, desecrate, destroy or damage Native American burial grounds or memorials on property that you own. That's the key element: if you own it, it's yours; if there's a federal protection to the land, the site can't be bothered.
In other words, state law doesn't value the protection of privately owned burial grounds and memorials of those who inhabited this state long before Alabama became Alabama. How convenient, since the state's name, and that of many of its cities, towns and rivers, are rooted in Native American etymology.
Let's not let facts, historical significance or cultural appropriateness get in the way of retail progress or legislative need, right?
It's time that those who value this stone mound refocus their efforts on the Legislature, not on Oxford City Hall. The latter's a lost cause; the former may not be.
Instead of holding prayer vigils and protests, it's time they take their message to legislators sympathetic to their cause. Here, what's done is done; what happens in Alabama's future is now the critical issue. How fitting it would be if the misguided decisions made in Oxford led to reform of an outdated, inadequate state law.
If so, then Native American sites across Alabama would be the winner.