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Insights into Traditional Viewpoints 

Many of the Native American  cultural groups who lived in and around "the Ohio Country" when their narratives were first recorded in print, expressed awe and respect for the earthworks and arrangements of mounds on their land.
Shawnee and Lenape (Delaware), Miami and Wyandot stories all agreed on the sacredness and significance of these mounds, which were generally avoided when groups set up villages or camps. Whether their ancestors or some earlier tribe were said to have built them, Ohio's earthworks were seen as the heritage of all.
These oral traditions of respect and reverence continue among Ohio Native Americans today, and the narrative record is still growing and preserving stories of the mounds.
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Archaeological sites or sacred places?  An American's Perspective:

“To the Indigenous Peoples of North America, the archaeological sites found on North American soil are not ‘archaeological’ sites.  They are sites where our relatives lived and carried out their lives. …

Today many of our people are reconnecting with these sites after many years of being denied the privilege of practicing our own religion at these very sacred areas.  In the past, trips were made in secret and hidden from curious eyes.

If you go to see a Sacred Site, remember you are walking on ‘holy ground,’ and we ask that you respect our culture and traditions.”

William Tallbull (1921-1996)

Northern Cheyenne elder

 

Excerpted from “Archaeological sites or sacred places? A Native American Perspective,” in Archaeology, 4th edition (2006), by David Hurst Thomas and Robert L. Kelly, p. 485. Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, California.

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Newark Earthworks Comments

 

      I'm an archaeologist – currently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley and of Ojibwe heritage.  I visited the Newark Earthworks in late Feb. of this year as part of a job interview at OSU.  I was profoundly moved while visiting the Earthworks.  I was with about half a dozen scholars, who were part of the team interviewing me and as I walked across the landscape my eyes were filled with tears.  Not sadness, not happiness exactly - just a very deep feeling of calm.   I could feel the most powerful connection with that place.  It was uncomfortable to be having such a powerful spiritual moment during this formal, professional event (a job interview when everyone is carefully watching you!) – but I was still profoundly affected by that interaction with the earthworks. 

      The team with me was very understanding.  I wanted to leave a gift to honor the ancestors that made such an amazing place and my companions were kind enough to give me some copper (an old penny) and allowed me some time alone to pray and leave that gift.  It was a fantastic experience and one I will keep with me and share with my own children in the future.  It would be so wonderful if others could have the chance to experience the power of that place and if it could be used for traditional ceremonies again, for future generations.

      I can only speak from my own perspective and don't presume to offer 'the' Native American perspective about the Newark earthworks.  From my own perspective, for many reasons I find it deeply troubling that the earthworks continue to be used as a golf course.  This is a very powerful place and it should be treated with reverence and respect.  It is critical that local Native people be consulted about the use and future of the Newark Earthworks and that they have access to this place, to care for her, and to be cared for by her.  The golf course keeps this important relationship from growing.

      With the quick pace of development in this society we are lucky that the Newark earthworks were not destroyed.  Although the golf course played an important role in preserving the site from destruction and further development in the past, I feel it's time of being a temporary steward of this place has passed.  Times have changed and we are now in a position to return the care of the site to its traditional stewards - the Native people of this region. 

      Over time I think people are beginning to recognize the power of places such as the Newark Earthworks.  Something many Native people have recognized for millennia is that the past is an ever living part of the present and the future.  These sites remind all of us of that connection – that time is not linear, and the past is always with us.  In caring for the past, we care for ourselves and future generations.  I think these sites have a power in them - by their very nature they move us to reflect and question, to wonder and ponder.  That helps make people mindful of what was important in the past and brings to mind the ways those same things are still so crucial for all of us today.  Things like the well-being of family, community, and wider society – how interconnected these things all are.  And how interdependent we all are to each other.  These are important lessons for us all to reflect on and I think Newark Earthworks and other powerful places like it have the power to help us do that. 

 Q:Do you believe if it is possible for a small group of people devoted to gaining respect and recognition for the N.E. to make a difference when the owner of the land, the OHS, recently extended the lease on the land to the Country Club for another 78 years?

Is it possible - Yes!  But I don't think it'll be easily accomplished.  The future of the Newark Earthworks revolve around two primary things:  money and power, and these things are difficult to challenge.  So, if efforts are to be successful I think those working on behalf of the Newark Earthworks have to find ways to effect the money and power of those currently in control.  The voice of a small group can certainly be powerful - particularly when justice is on your side.  I think much of the issue here is getting the word out and providing ways for people to join forces to work towards a single cause. Once the average person learns about this site and its meaning to local Native groups and others interested in the site, they will be more likely to support positive action for change.  People are usually very willing to help, but in many cases they don't know what is most beneficial, or they may not even be aware of the problem and why it matters so much.  I think if these things can be addressed in collaboration with local Native people then there is a limitless power in what can be accomplished on behalf of the Newark Earthworks. 

Q:In the spiritual realm, is using the Octagon Earthworks for a golf course like using Vatican City for golf?  Or some other analogy that would help my readers appreciate the value of this place?

It's actually impossible in many ways to make an effective comparison about playing golf on the Earthworks and playing golf in Vatican City or inside a church.  What the comparison doesn't convey well is the crucial issue of power - who has the power to control how your sacred sites and places are used?  People might think about playing golf in Vatican City and get  upset or feel it is wrong, but what they need to image is the entire force of colonization that created and continues to effect the situations we are in today.  Consider the fear of communism during the last century or the fear of terrorism today.  Try to imagine those fears becoming a reality and the feeling of seeing your local church "preserved" as a recreation area, while you aren't allowed to spend time praying in your church anymore.   It wouldn't matter if the 'outsiders' who took control were communists, terrorists, or space aliens, the point is that you no longer have the same control over your way of life, your spiritual practices, and important places - someone else does.  Of course the situation with Native people and the Earthworks is more complex than that, but with this example I think you can begin to have insight into the last 500 years of colonization and the importance of the current struggles and triumphs for decolonizing these sacred places. 

- Sonya Atalay

 

A Voice of the Mounds

 

            A Shawnee woman has agreed to give we Mounds a voice. The Great Circle Mound is speaking first. I greet you in a good way. My grounds are special, sacred to the Indian people. They come here to pray, a great deal like their ancestors did. The Natives of old, gathered here, speaking to their Creator, in the spring, asking for good crops. The women were honored then, because they are the life givers and responsible for gathering foods, to feed their families. After their prayers, there were games while the food that was gathered was being prepared and all ate well. Later, in the summer, the people, gathered again, thanking their Creator for their crops. In the fall, the people, came once more, for their spiritual gathering, honoring their men folk. They provided the food for their people, during the winter. My grounds were used for other rites, as well, such as when the people went to the spirit world. It is now my wish, to give my time over to the Octagon Mound, who wishes to speak. So much disrespect is shown to my friend. I leave you in peace.

            The Great Circle Mound pays me honor, in a good way. We stay connected by, what the people call a road. There were eight doorways, from which the people once entered my grounds. Trade and games and councils were held. Within my walls, I’ve watched much joy and sorrow. Behind my walls, lay the secrets of a world, I cannot share with you. For they belong to the Natives ancestors. The Native people hold our grounds, with honor and great respect. Still feeling the presence of their ancestors, when they come to pray. Other nations come to visit, as well but cannot understand, why the ghost faced figures with iron sticks, insist on holding them back. Well, one day, they too, will be gone like dust in the wind. A smaller mound, wishes to speak. I leave you in peace.

            I am honored, my brother, for being able to speak. Being a smaller mound, I am known as a burial mound. Within my grounds, lay the remains of the Old Ones known as the Mound Builders. They are the people who gave us life and honor. So many of us have been destroyed and pillaged. So much of the precious remains and their belongings have been taken. All in the name of research and progress but to the Natives, it is just plain greed. Why? Why, is there no respect? Why is it that the ghost faces do not give honor, due to the First People of these Americas? There’s a cold Wind Spirit, beginning to blow across my face, so with that, I the Burial Mound, will leave you in peace.

            Being the Shawnee woman who has written the words of the mounds, I feel spiritually connected, to these sacred beings, as I walk and leave my moccasin prints, hopefully in a good way, with my ancestors. I too, leave you in peace.

- Helen Griffin (Shawnee)

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Many people believe that the modern world with all of its advance technology is superior to all cultures and societies of the past.
        I contend that this is a flawed assumption.  I contend that in this modern age we have lost true values; that we have become blind to true realities.
        In our haste to make a buck, we do not take time to care for the aged, we do not take time to raise our children with meaningful values and understandings.  We have become blind to our interrelation with God’s creation.  This artificial world does not allow us to see the havoc that global warming, destruction of bio-diversity, pollution and radiation will have on future generations.
        The 18.6 year moonrise cycle marked by the Octagon Mound is much more than marking the passage of the moon.  The 18.6 year cycle is equivalent to an entire generation.  It requires one to learn from the elders.  It requires sharing and teaching with the children.  It requires one to understand our interrelationship with all of God’s creation.
        I believe that the ancient ones with God’s intervention have left us a roadmap that will help us to regain our spiritual centers and help us to avert future global disasters.
        Take time from your busy schedule and tune in to the true meaning of the moonrise at the Octagon Mound.  The ancient ones truly had the superior culture.

Mark Welsh
Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio

 

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Lookout Mound; Photo by Dick Howell

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