Monday, March 2, 2015

Tribal Support is Necessary in Upholding the Importance of the Ohio Earthworks

Timm Whissen
Marti Chaatsmith, Associate Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, lecturing on Tribal Participation and the Preservation of Ohio Earthworks. Image Courtesy of Timothy E. Black, DMIN Photography.
Marti Chaatsmith lecturing on Tribal Participation and the Preservation of Ohio Earthworks. Image Courtesy of Timothy E. Black, DMIN Photography.
Marti L. Chaatsmith, Associate Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, gave the second of three NEC sponsored lectures titled, “Tribal Participation in the Preservation of Ohio Earthworks” on Wednesday, February 11th at the Ohio State University at Newark.

She opened her lecture up by stating that all these lands in Ohio had been loved and revered by Ancient Indians. Every step we take throughout our day is placed on lands that had been understood by people long before the settlement of the area by whites during the 18th century.

In fact, early American settlement in the Ohio region had functioned by pushing Indians off the lands and plowing flat ancient mounds in order to claim private property. Anything considered Indian was targeted, including; towns, fields, graves, and earthworks.

By the mid-1800s, the last remaining Ohio Indian tribes were forced to cede lands in the name of American advancement. The lasting result of expansion into Ohio, she stated, “There are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Ohio today.”

Without the help of federally recognized tribal support, private property owners are given free reign over any ancient Indian structures or artifacts that were created long before lands had been seized.

In Newark, all but the Great Circle and the Octagon earthworks had been destroyed in this way.

The understanding and reverence for the earthworks that Indians exhibited for two-thousand years had also been lost when forced removal occurred; within a century white settlers had destroyed a large majority of the ancient structures across Ohio.

Within the past few years the Newark Earthworks Center has reached out to tribal communities, like the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi in Michigan, and has gained support in achieving World Heritage Status for the Ohio Earthworks; which would help protect the structures from any future damage.

With the support of Indian tribes across the country comes a renewed appreciation and respect for the Ohio Earthworks and in the efforts made to preserve them in their natural state.

The Ohio Earthworks stood as a representation of a highly complex society who had gained the respect of many generations of people after them, which is why the mounds had lasted for thousands of years. Continued support from American Indian tribes will help raise an understanding and awareness for preserving the Earthworks while also serving as a way for individuals to connect with the past.
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