FORT SILL — A high-ranking Fort Sill commander silenced a post historian who warned about the impact of building a warehouse near a site considered sacred to the Comanche Nation, according to a memo revealed in a court case. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti issued a ruling that prohibits the U.S. Army — at least temporarily — from building the $7.3 million Training Services Center warehouse south of the historic Medicine Bluffs. Prior to the judge's order, military officials debated the legality of the project with Comanche Nation leaders. Towana Spivey, who has been Fort Sill's museum director since 1982, warned military officials about the sensitivity of the site through a series of e-mails on the subject he began sending to officials as early as June 2007. But Garrison Commander Col. Robert Bridgford told Spivey he would be kept "out of the coordination loop” with the Fort Sill Environmental Office involving all historic buildings and sites, according to a memorandum of record written by Spivey. The memorandum became public record during the Comanche Nation's recent court hearing to halt construction at its traditionally sacred site. On June 25, 2007, Spivey sent the following e-mail to Fort Sill Environmental Division Chief Glen Wheat, which appeared in Judge DeGiusti's ruling: "Glen, I am hearing rumors about a new TSC (Training Services Center) facility on the north side of Randolph Road near the Medicine Bluffs. Is this true? If so, how did that ever get cleared? We have always tried to protect the area north of Randolph Road because once they start building there, that will become the excuse for additional buildings. Please say it ain't so!” Court records indicate Wheat never responded. A few weeks later, Spivey emphasized the sensitivity of the Medicine Bluffs in an e-mail to Deputy Garrison Commander Timothy Haymend. "Construction in this location will definitely have an adverse impact on the viewscape of the Medicine Bluffs, a site that is extremely significant to the founding of Fort Sill and also to the religious beliefs of the Southern Plains Tribes,” wrote Spivey, who is part Chickasaw. "Tribal people continue to this day to collect cedar and sage from the immediate area of the Bluffs for use in the sacred sites ... There are other suitable locations available for the (warehouse) facility. There are no other Medicine Bluffs.” Records show Col. Bridgford ordered a meeting with Spivey a month later, informing him his historical guidance was no longer desired. Military officials feared that a delay in construction would "increase construction costs and risk the loss of funding” for the training center, therefore impeding their ability to satisfy the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission's directives. DeGiusti's judgment, meanwhile, will remain in place pending a trial.
The Medicine Bluffs site on Fort Sill is considered sacred by the Comanche Tribe, which is seeking to block construction of an Army warehouse on the site. BY RON JACKSON, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE