Category Archives: ‎Archaeology

Ohio Hoping to Designate Indian Sites on World Heritage List (Video at Link)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jennifer Aultman serves as the director of historic sites and museums at Ohio History Connection. She’s a trained anthropologist and archaeologist and is on a mission to have Ohio sacred Indian sites, such as the Octagon, Great Circle, and six others to be designated as World Heritage sites.

In total, there are 24 World Heritage Sites in the U.S., including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Park.

“It can be a very long process, and the reason that is is that the committee wants to make sure that not only are these places so significant that they really should be added to the list, but they also want to make sure that they’re being managed in such a way that they’ll be preserved and cared for really in perpetuity,” said Aultman.

And while it’s believed the Hopewell Indians had a large presence in our state, their name was derived by a Chillicothe landowner.

“Hopewell was never the name of a tribe. It is a name that archeologists gave to sites based on the Hopewell Mound group in Chillicothe—was owned by a white man named Mordecai Hopewell,” said Aultman.

Earthworks were used by Native Americans as places of ceremony, social gathering, and honoring the dead.

Ohio’s history dates back thousands of years — from the Fortified Hill Earthworks project to the Great Serpent Mound.

Native American culture is still celebrated each year in Chillicothe during the Feast of the Flowering Moon.

Ohio State Professor of American Indian Studies and citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Dr. John Low says the eight locations across Ohio are not only part of our history, but monumental places of engineering and social collaboration, as well as astronomy and geometry.

“We don’t have a lot of information about them, we don’t have a lot of other materials left by them, and so, these earthworks, these mounds, these circles, they’re our best and last chance perhaps to hold on to what they have bequeathed to us,” said Dr. Low.

And while the process to be included as a World Heritage site must meet certain criteria, the process could take several years. Aultman says she’s confident Ohio will one day be able to share these national treasures with the rest of the world.

“One is that Ohioans will better understand and appreciate this history. Another is, yeah, this is sort of a global megaphone about this really important history that’s here in Ohio, we just want people to know that and appreciate the ancient American Indian culture and how sophisticated that tradition is in terms of astrological knowledge,” said Aultman.

If you’re interested in donating to the project, check out the Ohio History Connection website.

MAPPING CHICAGOU/CHICAGO: The Settler Colonial City Project

mcc-cover

I was honored to have the opportunity to write the foreword to a publication for Decolonizing the Chicago Cultural Center at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial by the research collective The Settler Colonial City Project.

You can read and download the entire publication here.

Foreword

This booklet is an important step toward acknowledging the colonial project we now call Chicago. Frankly, I was unfamiliar with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and was surprised when members began contacting me about “an Indigenous perspective” and “de-colonizing” the biennial to clear a space for native voices. Who knew? Since then, I have had the pleasure of making a small contribution to these efforts by consulting with Andrew Herscher, Ana Maria Leon and Paulo Tavares. Now, I am honored with providing a foreword to their document. This is significant – when individuals from distinctly different backgrounds, disciplines, and professions can organize and ally around a theme or issue, common understandings and common ground.

I am a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. I grew up in that community and know that Chicago is a part of our ancestral lands. I had the opportunity to write about our connections to the city in Imprints, The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi & the City of Chicago (Michigan State University Press, 2016). I love Chicago. Our tribal nation is less than one hundred miles from the Loop – we are the closest Native nation to the city. I have fond memories of visiting the city as a child, going to the museums, planetarium, aquarium, and sporting events, including my beloved Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  Later, I would earn an MA from the University of Chicago, lived in Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, and Bucktown. I taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, and finished my dissertation while a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library. Yes, I love Chicago.

Chicago has been ancestral home for many native peoples; Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Meskwaki, Fox, and others. It didn’t become an urban cosmopolitan place after the settler-colonists arrived. That is a false narrative. It has been a bustling place of interaction, trade, and habitation for thousands of years. But after 1833 and the last treaty of Chicago, American Indians were not expected to be included in “the American dream.” We were cultural patrimony, relics of the past. Modern America had no time for modern Indians. Pokagon Potawatomi author and activist, Simon Pokagon “talked back” to that notion with his oration at the World’s Columbian Exposition and his raising a birch bark tipi on the Midway during that event. Pokagon spoke before 70,000 people on Chicago Day in September of 1893; his booklet “The Red Man’s Greeting” was sold at the Fair and expressed his thoughts about the celebration.

On behalf of my people, the American Indians, I hereby declare to you, the pale-faced race that has usurped our lands and homes, that we have no spirit to celebrate with you the great Columbian Fair now being held in this Chicago city, the wonder of the world. No; sooner would we hold the high joy day over the graves of our departed than to celebrate our own funeral, the discovery of America. And while . . . your hearts in admiration rejoice over the beauty and grandeur of this young republic and you say, ‘behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land,’ do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race.

Clearly, it was difficult for him to celebrate this new Chicago. As he rode the Ferris Wheel at the Fair, Pokagon described his thoughts on how the place of his youth had changed.

As we were lifted up a strange sensation came over me, and I thought, the dominant race will yet invent a way for their sinners to reach heaven. For some cause, while our car was at its highest point, the monstrous wheel stood still. My companion said, “Pokagon, it stopped for you to view Chicago.” I surveyed the White City, stretching along the lake beneath me. Then, casting my eyes northward, I surveyed the white man’s Chicago. But how unlike the Chi-Kog-Ong of the red man! The shoreline of the lake, with its fleet of canoes; the marsh and winding river, with flags and rushes fringed, the scattering wigwams and the red men were nowhere to be seen. But in place rose roof o roof, steeples tall, smoking towers and masts of ships as far as eye could see. All had changed, except the sun and sky above, they had not, because the Great Spirit, in his wisdom, hung them beyond the white man’s reach.[i]

In large part, due to the U.S. governments plan of Indian relocation in the 1950’s, a new intertribal Indigenous community has emerged in Chicago. Simon Pokagon’s “talking back” against the erasure of Indigenous presence in Chicago has continued – reflected in the creation of Indigenous monuments including the bricolage at Wilson Avenue under Lakeshore Drive, and the historical marker and naming of “Battle of Fort Dearborn Park”.

Migwetch (thank you) to the authors of this booklet and to the reader as well. It tells an important story about Chicago that you usually don’t learn in school; one that is too often ignored. This little booklet, like Simon Pokagon’s little booklet of 130 years ago, is evidence that things are changing – not only in Chicago but around the world. Indigenous peoples are not just talking back; we are being heard.

[i] Simon Pokagon, “The Chi-Kog-Ong of the Red Man,” The New York Times, The Sunday Magazine, December 5, 1897; 7-10, 10.

Article from the alumni magazine of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, Spring 2020: The Place of Wild Onions

The Place of Wild Onions is an excerpt from a multi-part story on the recent Settler Colonial City Project (SCCP) exhibit at the Yates Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Pages 41-43)

I am honored that my book, Imprints: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago, was one of the inspirations for this impressive work and exhibit.

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You can read the Story on the LSA Magazine Website

You can also download the issue as a PDF or read the E-zine.

Talk at the Licking County Library, Newark, Ohio on March 12th

American Indians Return to the Newark Earthworks

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Downtown Newark
Meeting Room A

Event Details

Hundreds of federally recognized American Indians from across the country have traveled to Newark in recent years to visit our earthworks. In anticipation of the Spring Open House for the Octagon Earthworks, John Low and Richard Shiels will talk about the experience of Indians from Oklahoma and Michigan who have made the visit and the American Indian leaders who are active in the effort to inscribe the Newark Earthworks on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Richard Shiels, Associate Professor Emeritus, specializes in American religious history and has served as the Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, an interdisciplinary center of The Ohio State University for studying and teaching about ancient earthworks and Native American history and life.  He was the recipient of The Ohio State University-Newark Teaching Excellence Award in 1977, 1985, and 1988.
John N. Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies and citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, is the current Director of the Center.  He has previously served as Executive Director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, and as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Indians of the Midwest Project at the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library.
Event Type(s): Adult
Age Group(s): Adult

New Short Documentrary on YouTube: The Pokagon Band of Potowatomi

The Pokagon Band of Potowatomi

“Very few native tribes avoided removal to the West, but the Pokagons, led by Chief Leopold Pokagon, managed to do it. This short documentary, produced for The Region of Three Oaks Museum, tells that story and subsequent events that led to official recognition of the Pokagons by the US government 160 years later.”

Ohio Mounds Top USA’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Bid (With Audio)

Ohio Mounds Top USA’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Bid

In the Arts & Sciences News: Heritage, legacy drives Newark Earthworks Center director

Heritage, legacy drives Newark Earthworks Center director

Newark Earthworks
The east entrance of the Newark Earthwork’s Great Circle.


Encompassing over 4 square miles and constructed by the indigenous peoples of the ancient Hopewell culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D, the Newark Earthworks are the largest set of earthen enclosures in the world. Approximately 2,000 years after they were built, John Low feels their significance and generational legacy in his veins.

Low, an associate professor of comparative studies at Ohio State Newark, was recently named director of the Newark Earthworks Center (NEC), an interdisciplinary academic center at Ohio State. Created in 2005, the NEC examines American Indians’ cultural and scientific achievements with a focus on developing programs and researching the cultures that constructed earthworks around the Midwest.

Low is the coordinator of the Newark campus’s American studies minor and often takes students to the earthworks, where he’s able to incorporate them into his teaching and research. A citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indian nation, Low feels a distinct connection to the earthworks, a connection passed down by his ancestors.

“We may have direct descendance to these mound builders, and even if we don’t, these were our indigenous neighbors that built these places,” Low said. “The earthworks are a celebration of who our ancestors were and who we are as Native peoples. That’s what it means to me.”


Much of the earthworks have been demolished over the years as Newark has developed and expanded, but three sections have remained more or less intact:

  • The Great Circle Earthworks: Approximately 1,200 feet in diameter — wide enough to cram in four football fields end to end — the Great Circle’s walls are 8 feet high with a 5-foot trench along the inside circumference of the circle. The Great Circle’s gateway points due east, and Eagle Mound — a group of mounds in the shape of a bird midflight — is nestled at its center.
  • The Wright Earthworks: A few blocks northeast of the Great Circle is the Wright Earthworks. Though much of Wright has been destroyed with the city of Newark’s expansion and development, the mounds used to form a near-perfect square with eight small mounds situated within.
  • The Octagon Earthworks: A little over a mile to the northwest of the Great Circle lies the Octagon Earthworks, which comprises of the Octagon, Observatory Circle and Observatory Mound. The Octagon has eight walls, each approximately 550 feet long, 5 to 6 feet tall and separated by gaps in the corners. Connected to the Octagon’s west side is Observatory Circle, with Observatory Mound laid perpendicularly across its western entrance.

“The people who built these were very pre-Frank Lloyd Wright in that they were really concerned with the horizonal,” Low said. “He was interested in his architecture blending in and being horizontal and in balance with the environment.”

Though no one can know for certain the Hopewell peoples’ reasons for constructing the complex — some speculate the earthworks were places of worship, trade, burials and other ceremonies — they remain an extraordinary feat of ingenuity that exemplify their creators’ advanced knowledge of geometry, astronomy and earthen engineering.

For example, in 1982, researchers from Earlham College discovered that the Octagon Earthworks was a complicated lunar observatory. The gaps between each wall of the Octagon, they found, are aligned to points on the horizon indicating notable moonrises and moonsets of a complex 18.6-year lunar cycle, with the extreme northernmost moonrise lining up exactly with the Octagon’s central axis. Furthermore, the square footage of both the Great Circle and the Observatory Circle (1,054 feet) corresponds to other Hopewellian structures, including the Octagon.

“That measurement is replicated in other places in Ohio, so they were doing the exact same thing,” Low said. “Regarding the moon cycle, we can only speculate why that was important, but it was important to them. It may have represented stability and balance that these things were going to continue as they were expected to go. It shows a lot of human ingenuity.”

Newark Earthworks
Moundbuilders Country Club’s golf course is constructed within the Octagon and Observatory Circle.


The Newark Earthworks is operated as a state park by the Ohio History Connection, is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is considered by the state of Ohio as “the official prehistoric monument of the state.”

The site is also being considered for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which recognizes designated landmarks around the world that have cultural, historical or scientific significance and are legally protected by international treaties. The Newark Earthworks’ status on the list hinges partly on an ongoing legal battle with Moundbuilders Country Club, on which the Octagon Earthworks lay.

Low says, however, the designation wouldn’t be decided on for another three to four years.

“There would be a significant influx of tourism from around the world, which would be really exciting to be able share this,” he said.

As director of the NEC, Low is striving to promote scholarly engagement surrounding the Newark Earthworks and grow the NEC as an elite research center. He feels a duty to develop the NEC and bring academics to the earthworks not just because he’s a professor and researcher, but because of the generations that came before him.

“The blood of mound builders is in our veins,” he said. “We may not have built them, but we carry that ancestry and that legacy and that inheritance with us.”

https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/sites/default/files/styles/news_event/public/john%20low%20web.jpg?itok=Oj4KanB6

“Not Just a Pile of Dirt” – OSUN – Faculty Talks Outside the Box Friday, November 15, 2019, 3:30 – 4:30pm

Faculty Talks Outside the Box | Not Just a Pile of Dirt

Facult Talks Outside the Box | Not Just a Pile of Dirt Lecture Flyer. PDF available.
November 15, 2019
3:30 PM
Free & Open to the Public!
Room 175
John L. & Christine Warner Library & Student Center
The Ohio State University at Newark
1219 University Drive
Newark, OH 43055
 

It is a story similar to hundreds told before — the destruction of historical land to make way for the growth of a booming city. Once encompassing more than four square miles, the Newark Earthworks were built by the people of the ancient Hopewell Culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. All that remains today of the Earthworks are two major segments: the Great Circle Earthworks and the Octagon Earthworks. John Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies and the new Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, will discuss these incredible indigenous monuments in their former days and what remains today at an upcoming Faculty Talks Outside the Box lecture.

“It is important to be familiar with these ancestral sites not only because they will likely soon be a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, but also because they represent a legacy of human achievement in architecture, astronomy, geometry and evidence of humankind’s ability to work together in collaborative undertakings,” said Dr. Low.

Dr. Low will discuss how the Newark Earthworks are an architectural wonder of ancient America, and how they are part cathedral, part cemetery and part astronomical observatory. He will note the work of the Newark Earthworks Center and the importance of the Earthworks as a potential UNESCO World Heritage site.

During Faculty Talks Outside the Box, Ohio State Newark professors discuss recent research in their fields as it relates to our community and answer questions. All talks are free and open to the public. The Warner Center is located at 1219 University Drive, Newark, Ohio.

Announcement of My New Role: Director of the Newark Earthworks Center

Newark Earthworks Center Welcomes New Director

John N. Low, PhD, associate professor at The Ohio State University at Newark, has been appointed as director of the Newark Earthworks Center (NEC). His term will begin on September 1, 2019, and run through August 31, 2022.

“Since arriving at Ohio State, John has put together not only a strong scholarly record, but an equally impressive record of outreach and engagement” said William L. MacDonald, PhD, dean/director at Ohio State Newark. “I am very happy to announce his new role with the Newark Earthworks Center.”

The NEC is an interdisciplinary academic center of The Ohio State University that is focused on advancing the understanding of the cultural and scientific achievements of American Indians through projects and research about the cultures that produced monumental Midwestern earthen architecture. The center started as the Newark Earthworks Initiative in 2005 and became the Newark Earthworks Center in 2006 after receiving official approval from The Ohio State University Board of Trustees.

According to Low, who is a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and also coordinator of the American Studies minor program at the Newark campus, “I am very excited to join a small but passionate team at the Newark Earthworks Center, as we build upon the foundations laid by former director Dick Shiels and interim director Marti Chaatsmith (Comanche Nation Citizen/Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma descendant). The Center will continue to grow and evolve. As a center for The Ohio State University we have a unique opportunity to promote scholarly engagement and research as well as contribute to the efforts of World Heritage Ohio to have the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the future we will also expand our focus to include earthworks and mounds throughout Ohio, and reach out to scholars, constituents and stakeholders around the world as we make the Ohio State Newark NEC a world class research center.”

Low received the American Society for Ethnohistory’s Robert F. Heizer Award for best article for “Vessels of Recollection – the Canoe Building Renaissance in the Great Lakes,” published in 2015 in Material Culture. His book,Imprints: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago (Michigan State University Press), was published in 2016.

He served on the Ohio State Cemetery Law Task Force and has testified before the Ohio legislature regarding establishing an “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Low is the chair of the Ohio State Newark/Central Ohio Technical College Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusion and a member of the Program in American Indian Studies Faculty Oversight Committee. He has curated two shows reflecting traditional indigenous knowledge at Ohio State Newark’s LeFevre Gallery. In 2015-2016, Low received the COTC/Ohio State Newark President’s and Dean/Director’s Diversity Award. Further, he has served on the oversight committee for the NEC since his arrival at Ohio State.

Low, who teaches in the department of comparative studies, earned a PhD in American culture and a juris doctorate and graduate certificate in museum studies at the University of Michigan. He also earned an MA in the social sciences from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Ohio State, he was a visiting professor in history, law and American studies at Northwestern University, a visiting professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and executive director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois.

When Low enters the role of director, Marti Chaatsmith, NEC interim director, will resume the position of associate director. University budget cuts in 2015 put the fate of the NEC in question just as the earthworks were on the brink of international fame. Announced in July 2018, the NEC will continue at Ohio State Newark, becoming the regional campus’s only university center. The decision was reached unanimously by Ohio State’s Council of Academic Affairs. The leadership of Chaatsmith was a key factor in this outcome.

 

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.

Chinese Undergraduate Students Visit The Great Circle

On August 1st, I had the honor of giving a tour of the Great Circle to a group of about 30 Chinese undergraduate students who were visiting the area.

China Students at Great Circle 2019 B

Professor Pat McAloon hosted the group and sent the below kind comments shared here with his permission:

John, Thank you very much for sharing the Earthworks with our guests yesterday. Your ability to share with us the perspectives of the First Peoples really changed the way we look at the Newark Earthworks, especially how we should keep in mind that dirt is a sacred medium and we should not evaluate the earthworks using our “civilized” preference for stone.

Gifting tobacco to the earthworks was also a great way to make the experience an experience.

China Students at Great Circle 2019

Pokagons Collaborate with the Field Museum in Chicago on Native Exhibit

I was honored to give an Armour Lecture yesterday June 5 at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I spoke on the power of native baskets and the importance of the Black Ash Basket Coop to the Pokagon Potawatomi community. Highlighted were cofounders Julia Wesaw, Agnes Rapp, Judy Augusta, and Rae Daugherty. 

I was also honored to be invited to guest curate a temporary exhibit on Black Ash baskets at the Field Museum scheduled for Autumn 2021.

Many thanks to my hosts Alaka Wali, Debra Yepa-Pappan, and Eli Suzukovich for their kind hospitality and to everyone who came out for my talk!
Chi Migwetch!

More Here:

Pokagons collaborate with Field Museum on native exhibit

When Pokagon history professor John Low Ph.D., heard that The Field Museum in Chicago would embark on a project to revamp its dated Native North America Exhibit Hall, he brought that to the attention of the tribe’s Traditions and Repatriation Committee and the Department of Language & Culture. Committee members Christine and Gary Morseau and Jason S. Wesaw, as well as Marcus Winchester, director, and Blaire Topash-Caldwell, archivist, from the Department, went to view the museum’s collection. They met with Debra Yepa-Pappan, a Pueblo artist and community engagement coordinator for the Native American exhibit renovation project at the museum, who asked for Pokagon participation in the project. Topash-Caldwell is now serving on the committee reviewing the museum’s renovation.

Recently, Winchester spoke at a ceremony dedicating and installing an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of the land the museum occupies. The new plaque sits in a garden full of native plants and states: “The Field Museum resides on the traditional homelands of the Three Fires Confederacy: Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. The area was also a site of trade, travel and healing for more than a dozen other native tribes.”

It is a “much, much needed renovation,” Field president and CEO Richard Lariviere said in the Chicago Tribune’s article about the ceremony and project. “This project intends to correct the way the museum tells the Native American history by doing so through the lens and voices of Native Americans.”

“It means a lot for such an influential museum in the United States to put themselves out there and acknowledge indigenous people as traditional land owners,” Winchester said after the ceremony that included a hand drum singer and a jingle dress dancer.

“I met people from other museums there,” he said. “I would most definitely like to see other museums follow their lead.”

The museum’s current exhibit will remain open throughout the three-year overhaul, with fall of 2021 as the targeted completion date.

Video from: A Crossroads of Nations Talk, a Spirit and Place event at the Eiteljorg Museum

October 2018: Newark Earthworks Octagon Open House

Thank you to all of my students who joined me at the Open House today!

Octagon open house. 10.7.18

2018, October 7. OHC Flyer. Octagon Open House

WBEZ: Map Quest: Searching for Chicago’s ‘Lizard Mound’: An odd detail on a map suggests Chicago may have once been home to an ancient effigy mound.

Map Quest: Searching for Chicago’s ‘Lizard Mound’

Story at link above.

img_0443_edited_green-750x1277.jpeg

Dilg’s map shows a lizard-shaped mound on the block bounded by Oakdale Avenue, Sheffield Avenue, Wellington Avenue, and Mildred Avenue (formerly “May Street”), oriented from north to south, in the western third of the block. (Courtesy Chicago History Museum, Charles A. Dilg collection)

Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Occasional Papers

A Native’s Perspective on Trends in Contemporary Archaeology by John N. Low is available in the MCJA Occasional Paper Number 2 – Spring 2018

Cover MAC-Occasional-Papers

You can download the pdf here:
Encounters, Exchange, Entanglements: Current Perspectives on Intercultural Interactions throughout the Western Great Lakes

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