As you all probably know by now, this has been a challenging year for SISCA. We are glad that Seminole Days is approaching, so we will get to see you all in person to answer any of your questions about the events that have happened and the growth they have stimulated for SISCA.
We would, however, like to be ready to move forward at Seminole Days with all conflicts behind us, so we have some urgent business to complete with you in the next month!
As you have probably read in our previous newsletters, in June, Mr. Lee Young and the ASTT began to take down the original historic entrance to the Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery and replace it with an unapproved design that the SISCA board had clearly communicated to them was unacceptable. The original gate and entrance are SISCA property, and the ASTT had no right to alter them in any way without SISCA’s permission.
Unfortunately, because the land that the cemetery is on is owned by a local family, not by SISCA, we were unable to stop the construction. However, after three days, Mr. Stan Conoly, one of the brothers who own the land, was able to broker an agreement, whereby the ASTT stopped construction until SISCA members could vote on what they want done with the entrance.
We are very grateful to Mr. Conoly for stopping the construction just before the original entrance was completely destroyed. It is still possible to restore it and renovate it, so it can continue to represent the history of our community and Miss Charles and all the other founders of SISCA.
We would like to complete that vote before Seminole Days, which is why we are writing you all now.
Although the SISCA board strongly objects to the new construction, which we feel will take away the historical and emotional value of the original entrance by replacing it with something new and without any connection to our past, we are acting in good faith and will give you, the community, the option to vote to determine what happens with the entrance.
Here is a version of the letter that we will send out with the ballots, explaining the situation and offering to you the two proposals that the ASTT has now submitted, following the agreement made at the cemetery:
To all voting members of SISCA,
As most of you probably know by now, Mr. Lee Young and the board of the proposed Absentee Seminole Tribe of Texas have attempted to alter the historic entrance to our cemetery, and we are in the process of resolving this issue and need your vote on it.
Mr. Young and the ASTT began to raise money for what he called a “cemetery renovation project” during his Seminole Days banquet in 2016, without presenting any sort of design to SISCA or asking for our approval.
When he did eventually approach SISCA, the board repeatedly made it clear to him that we had to see a design in order to approve it, and that we would not approve of a design that did not include the original sign.
The ASTT never submitted any plans to us for the project, so eventually, we withdrew from it, as we could not back something that we had no information on.
Mr. Young and the ASTT then sued SISCA for breach of contract, although there had never been a contract. The lawsuit also alleged that SISCA did not care for the cemetery properly, and asked the court to give the ASTT all real property belonging to SISCA, including the cemetery ( which does not belong to SISCA, but to the Conoly family), the school grounds and museum and masonic building. Upon legal advice that this lawsuit was frivolous and would never hold up in court, SISCA board members cooperated with all legal requirements and waited for the court proceedings to resolve the matter.
Then suddenly, in June, Mr. Lee Young and the ASTT began to take down the original historic entrance to our cemetery and replace it with an unapproved design, despite SISCA’s request that they cease and desist. The original gate and entrance are SISCA property, and the ASTT had no right to alter them in any way without SISCA permission.
Unfortunately, because the land that the cemetery is on is owned by a local family, not by SISCA, we were unable to use the law to stop the construction. However, after three days, Mr. Stan Conoly, one of the brothers who owns the land, was able to broker an agreement, whereby the ASTT stopped construction until SISCA members can vote on what they want done with the entrance.
We are very grateful to Mr. Conoly because the construction was stopped just before the original entrance was completely destroyed. It is still possible to restore it and renovate it, so it can continue to represent the history of our community and Miss Charles and all other founders of SISCA.
The SISCA board strongly objects to the new construction, which we feel will take away the historical and emotional value of the original entrance by replacing it with something new and without any connection to our past.
Although Mr. Young calls it a “renovation project,” he has actually used only the frame of the original entrance as material for a new design. He has submitted two proposals, one of which is simply the new design, and the other adds in the original sign, to fulfill the requirement by SISCA that the design maintain some historical value. The SISCA board feels that incorporating two signs is awkward and looks like an afterthought. It is not a good design.
The original entrance represents the pride of the community in establishing the Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery Association to preserve the heritage of the ancestors buried in the Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery. It represents Miss Charles and every SISCA president and every member who paid for it, helped build it, maintained it throughout the years, and every one of us who has walked through it to bury loved ones. It is unique, and it represents a very special moment in history — when our community came together to proclaim its pride in our ancestors.
SISCA is very proud of the history of the Scouts, and the history of SISCA itself, and we want descendants for years to come to be able to walk through the same entrance that their grandparents did. It could use a coat of paint and some tender loving care, but many of us do not want it altered or replaced by a new design.
We prefer the historic entrance that represents the pride of our ancestors to something new that does not represent the melancholy beauty of the cemetery. But we believe in the democratic process, and if the majority of SISCA members prefer one of the new entrances in the ASTT design, we will accept your decision.
On the ballot, there will be three choices. One will be to restore and renovate the original entrance, preserving its historic beauty. The other two will be the two proposals from the ASTT.
It is our hope that you will stand with us in preserving our continuing pride in SISCA and our community and vote to restore the original entrance and renovate it, but not to change it.
There is a big practical issue with Mr. Young’s design.
Our original entrance was created in such a way that it has a pedestrian entrance wide enough for wheelchair access that can be used even if the gates themselves are shut and locked to prevent cars from coming in.
This is important in case SISCA ever needed to lock the gate to prevent cars from entering. Having a pedestrian entrance would still always allow access to everyone who has ancestors and loved ones buried there.
Mr. Young has eliminated the pedestrian entrance, thereby making it impossible to keep cars out but allow pedestrians in. With the addition of the stonework around the poles, there is no room for a pedestrian entrance.
Mr. Young has not provided us with photos of the new sign that he has designed, but we assume it is already made, since he was about to put it in place. It is clear that it is a modern sign, and for the SISCA board, it is just a sign that you can find anywhere, while the original sign is unique to our cemetery and represents our history.
Proposal #2 was created in order to add the original sign into the design. The SISCA board feels that simply adding the historical sign, instead of making it a primary element in the design, looks like the afterthought that it is and is not graceful or elegant like the original design is. It is repetitive.
The SISCA board also objects to the brick stanchions that have been put around the pipes, as they are not harmonious with the rest of the cemetery and are simply new bricks, not actual stonework.
Mr. Young plans to paint the piping, which is white, black. SISCA doesn’t see the need to change the color of the piping and feels that the original white of the poles stands out more than black would. The silhouette of the poles against a sunset is beautiful when they are white but will be less visible if they are painted black.
These are our objections to the proposals from Mr. Young and the ASTT.
We feel it would be easy to return the entrance to its original state. With the stonework removed and the gate replaced and a sandblasting and renovating coat of paint, our history can be restored for Seminole Days, so we can all walk through the same entrance our ancestors did! However, it is up to you, our members, to tell us what you prefer!