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Fort Meigs may go on parks ‘watch list’

Article published Wednesday, October 9, 2002

An official from the National Parks Service’s Midwest Archeological Center is recommending that Fort Meigs State Memorial Park in Perrysburg be placed on a "watch list" compiled by the federal agency in its biennial Landmarks At Risk report.

Vergil Noble, supervisory archaeologist at the park service’s Lincoln, Neb., regional office, attended a meeting last night at Sanger Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library with top officials from Ohio Historical Society, which oversees Fort Meigs, and Native American Alliance of Ohio, a group of Indian activists.

Mr. Noble said after the meeting his preliminary look at issues at the fort made him recommend moving it from its "satisfactory" status to "watch."

"Fully half the National Historic Landmarks in the country are on the "watch" or "threatened" lists," he said. "This is nothing extraordinary. Of the six NHS archeological sites in Ohio, three are on ‘watch’ status, if you include Meigs."

Mr. Noble said his report on the fort is finished and has been sent to park service headquarters in Washington. The listing, he said, is a "mandate to monitor the situation, and determine the need for our technical assistance, if it’s needed.

"It merely means conditions may develop that would cause us concern," he said. "It brings an extra degree of awareness. There’s a need for heightened awareness anytime there’s a historic site in an urban area."

Mr. Noble will meet with historical society officials today; he remained silent through most of last night’s meeting.

When Native American remains were unearthed during a construction project at Fort Meigs last year, historical society officials reburied some remains and removed others and shipped them to a laboratory in Columbus for study and storage. When the quiet removals went public, Native Americans took issue with how the state-sponsored historical group collects and maintains remains and artifacts they see as part of their heritage.

Tom Netz, an Indian activist, said Ohio’s sometimes-contentious tribes and nations can use the issues to overcome differences and join to advise museums on how to handle the stories, artifacts, and structures Native Americans left behind.

The Ohio Historical Society-Indian dialog included the presentation of a draft policy on how historical society workers will, from now on, respond when human remains turn up.

As instituted in February by Rachel Tooker, the historical society’s chief operations officer, workers will leave their finds in place if possible, and follow clear-cut procedures when other artifacts are found.

Meantime, volunteers from the Native American Alliance will contact representatives of more than a dozen Indian groups who might want a voice in advising historical and legislative groups on Indian history, culture, and affairs.

"We will invite them all, even the ‘New Age’ Indians and the ones who obviously don’t know very much about their culture," said Barbara Mann, an alliance spokeswoman. "If they stay, they’ll learn something about their culture. And when they see there’s actual work to be done, the ones who are [insincere] will fall away."


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