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  Woman's Peace Wish Sparks Dispute

By Tina Moore
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Oct. 16, 2000; 2:08 a.m. EDT

WEST CHESTER, Pa. –– It's some gift, nearly 12 acres of fertile flood plain covered with grass, wild rose bushes and goldenrod in a Philadelphia suburb. Just enough, thought Carol Galantino, to make peace with the American Indian tribe that once called the land home.

But the actions of the late Galantino and her husband, Peter, infuriated neighbors who don't doubt their generosity, but say their rights have been trampled in the process.

Carol Galantino, who died last year of leukemia, was no stranger to the plight of the American Indian when she and her husband found arrowheads three years ago in a creek bed on their 17 acres in Thornbury Township. She had been committed to the Indian cause for years, but the arrowheads sharpened her resolve to do something about it.

The Galantinos would give 11½ acres to the Delaware Tribe. The couple's bucolic barrier from the strip malls and houses going up on the major thoroughfare nearby was difficult to let go.

When Carol told the tribe about the donation, tribal secretary Linda Poolaw's first thought was, "What's the catch?"

There was no catch.

"It's their land," said Peter Galantino, 78. "We took it from them."

Marshall Becker, a history professor at West Chester University, said he knew of no other instance in which anyone had given land to a tribe. He didn't doubt the Galantinos' sincerity, but called the gift "part of this whole swing of trying to address a perceived wrong."

But neighborhood disputes soon followed.

Shortly after the Galantinos found the arrowheads, the couple began trying to buy land around their property, in hopes of giving it back, too.

George and Denise Wood, however, were building their dream house and weren't interested in selling.

Peter Galantino responded by constructing a 400-foot-long, 12-foot-high fence along the edge of his land, effectively blocking the Woods' view.

"I cried for weeks when that thing first went up," Denise Wood said.

The feud landed the Galantinos in court in 1997, and a Chester County judge found Carol Galantino guilty of disorderly conduct. George Wood alleged she fired a gun and threatened to kill him. Carol Galantino said she had struck the fence with a board to scare Wood away.

Another clash occurred in 1998 at a party Carol Galantino threw to welcome tribal members to see the land.

And some township residents began to question the sincerity of the Galantinos' graciousness and the Delaware tribe's plans for the land.

Township Supervisor Ron Miller said there's no threat of a casino being built, as has been done on other Indian lands. The deed to the tribe prohibits that, he said.

As for any other plans, Miller reserved judgment. There would have to be proposals made, zoning hearings and the like.

Poolaw says the tribe hasn't made any decisions about how to use the land. The tribe, which occupied the Delaware River Valley during colonial times, numbers close to 10,000.

The neighbors say they just want to make sure nothing ruins the landscape.

"It's really a very quiet street," neighbor Linda Mathiasen said. "I'd hate to see it with a big artificial Indian look to it."

Peter Galantino continues to hunt for artifacts and think about his wife and her devotion to help American Indians.

Meanwhile, George and Denise Wood have learned to live with the big, white fence around their home and the surveillance cameras that Peter Galantino has aimed at their property.

"There have been so many, many problems – numerous problems," Denise Wood said.


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© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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