Key Adena Earthworks and Preserve Saved in Ohio
Purchase of the site bodes well for the ability of preservation groups in the Ohio Valley to cooperate in saving what remains of the area’s prehistoric heritage. However, the unity that made site acquisition possible may strain over some contentious issues that the earthworks themselves spotlight.
Chief among these is the name and identification of the Indians who built these works. Slap-dash fundraising materials named those Indians as “Hopewell” or “Hopewellian”—the latter name used to avoid the embarrassment that “Hopewell” now brings. While the Hopewell name is now the most recognizable in describing Ohio mound-builders, it honors a 19th-century Chillicothe man who had fought with lack of distinction for the Confederacy and whose contribution to so-called archaeology was to open the Indian cemeteries on his Ohio property to looters. Yet his Anglo-Saxon whitebread name has now been stuck onto a whole indigenous civilization, a people who certainly hoped better than to be remembered as “Hopewell.”
Scientific archaeologists also are done with the Hopewell name, because evidence no longer supports a demographic distinction between “Adena” and “Hopewell”—from at least 1000 BCE to 500 CE, the Ohio Valley was principally populated by one continuous Algonquian civilization, best referred to as Adena, a name with fortunate cognates in Algonquian language.
The naming issue rises to prominence as the planned nomination of eight Ohio earthwork sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List proceeds—with anticipated addition of the Junction Group. If identified as “Hopewell,” UNESCO would be asked to list a set of sacred structures under a name patently offensive to the indigenous people who built them, just as the descendants of the mound-builders, removed from the State of Ohio before 1832, are newly asserting their rights of authorship. In both 2012 and 2013, Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, now located in Oklahoma, visited Ohio earthwork sites and made it clear that these works are the heirlooms of her people, calling Ohio the once and future Shawnee “homeland.”
Given the timing of the Junction Group acquisition, the Algonquian tribes now far removed to other states were not actively involved. But that situation is sure to be different for development of a site management plan, including choice of the name attributed to its creators, assuring that Tecumseh’s confederacy and not the Confederate States of America gets the honor. This lends new meaning to the Junction Group as a site of “resurrection” and the common hope that we may be among the Pekwilenegi.
Geoffrey Sea is a writer and historian and director of Adena Core, a heritage preservation organization in the Ohio Valley. Check out Adena Core's Facebook page here.
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