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Group continues focus on access to earthworks

Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- A local citizens group that aims to increase public access at the Octagon Earthworks, including finding ways to end a private country club's lease on the site, discussed Tuesday night the last open house day at the earthworks.

The group, the Friends of the Mounds, had also wanted to proceed further on the development of a cultural resource management plan with the Ohio Historical Society -- which owns the Octagon Earthworks site -- but was unable to because two expected historical society members from Columbus did not attend.

Rachel Tooker, the new historical society deputy director, and James Strider, chief of the historical society's External Relations Division, had planned to attend, but canceled in the afternoon.

James Kingery, site manager for the historical society's Newark Earthworks showed up later but did not address the long-term plan.

The goal of the plan, Strider has said, is to improve decision-making in the preservation and interpretation of the Octagon Earthworks.

The historical society has leased the Octagon Earthworks site to the Moundbuilders Country Club, which uses the site as a golf course.

The use of the earthworks -- considered an archaeological and astronomical ancient wonder as well as a sacred spot -- as a golf course has rattled Native Americans, archaeologists and other interested parties.

At a previous Friends of the Mounds' meeting, the historical society had handed out an outline of the cultural resource management plan, including a draft action plan and schedule.

According to the schedule, the historical society planned to identify stakeholder groups and solicit recommendations of representatives for an advisory group in August.

Following that meeting, the Friends of the Mounds provided to the historical society specific names of people to represent various Native American associations, local schools and universities and archaeological groups.

Discussion on who exactly will participate in a stakeholders' advisory group will have to wait until the group's next meeting in September.

The Friends of the Mounds did discuss intentions for the fourth and last golf-free open house day at the Octagon Earthworks on Oct. 19 from 1-5 p.m. The historical society has said that it is interested in the group's input on how best to organize this day.

Suggestions from Friends members Tuesday night included activities that would focus more on Native American wishes rather than those previously organized by the historical society.

For instance, ideas brought up included a prayer circle, teach-ins and a display table with educational and historical material on the earthworks to better educate the public.

"It seems to me, when the ancients built this mound, the purpose was for prayer in the circle, where you can pray, sing or talk," said Mark Welsh, of the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio.

"I'm a child of the '60s," said Joan Novak, associate professor of religion and women's studies at Denison University, who suggested teach-ins or lectures focusing on the history of the earthworks.

Barbara Crandell, a Cherokee descendant who was arrested at the Octagon Earthworks on June 26 after an argument with the club president and members, suggested a display table to allow the public to view copies of the legal documents governing ownership and use of the land over the years.

Crandell's case has been scheduled for a jury trial on Sept. 19.

When asked if the group would like to have interpretative tours by historical society archaeologists as was conducted during the first two open house days, a silence emerged.

"We have enough talent in this room" to conduct such tours, said Regina Landeros-Thomas, board member of the Ohio Center for Native American Affairs.

Her husband, Barry Landeros-Thomas, coordinator of American Indian student services at Ohio State University's Multicultural Center, added that it would be good to have "an alternative interpretation rather than the mainstream archaeological" interpretation.

But Welsh later added that it wouldn't be a problem for him if archaeologists gave tours.

As for activities previously organized by the historical society associated around prehistoric weapons and tools such as the atlatl and dart and the pump drill, Barry Landeros-Thomas said such activities sidestepped the main point of an open house.

"In my view, it's a little tokenistic -- to have fun and games when talking about the survival of Native (American) sites. It's nothing different than what the club members are doing," he said.

Reporter Julie Shaw can be reached at 328-8544 or [email protected]

Originally published Wednesday, August 21, 2002

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