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Descendants of Ohio's earliest people fight to save mounds
Posted by ErthAvengr to NDN AIM
Liz Sidoti Associated Press
Columbus - Mound Street runs through the state capital. Indian Mound Mall is
a spot in Heath, Ohio. And Newark is home to the Moundbuilders Country Club.
The places and their names - symbolic as well as literal - are testaments to
the state's rich American Indian legacy. It is a history that descendants say
is increasingly disappearing as development disturbs Ohio's numerous American
Indian burial and earthen mounds.
"There's no way to get back what's lost, but what we can do is try to
preserve what's left," said Barry Landeros-Thomas, a member of the Native
American Indian Center of Central Ohio.
Descendants of American Indians say most mounds in Ohio have been disturbed,
so they are fighting to protect the limited, albeit unknown, number that
American Indian burial mounds on public property are protected by federal
law. However, there are no laws protecting those on private land, where many
A state legislative committee is examining how Ohio could better preserve
such burial grounds as well as cemeteries, but a lack of state money is
likely to hinder development of such a preservation program.
Franco Ruffini, a state preservation officer, said protecting American Indian
mounds is difficult because many are unmarked. Thus, developers sometimes are
unaware that they are disturbing sacred land.
"Sometimes they are inadvertently disturbed by sprawl," Ruffini said. "It's a
The mounds, some that include remains, were created thousands of years ago by
various tribes. American Indians say they are proof of legends their
ancestors told and offer glimpses into the lives of Ohio's original
"Mounds are part of a very rich, deep and complex history of native people
that's tens of thousands of years old," said Landeros-Thomas, who is of
Cherokee and Lumbee ancestry. "But they've been bulldozed over, dug under or
manicured into an 18th green."
Since 1910, the private Moundbuilders Country Club has leased part of the
Octagon Earthworks in Newark for use as a golf course. The property was
purchased with public money in 1893 and eventually was turned over to the
Ohio Historical Society, which still owns the ancient mounds. The country
club's lease expires in 2078.
It is believed the Hopewell people built the 8-foot-high earthen mounds,
which were not used for burials, about 1,650 years ago in an octagon
connected to a perfect circle to identify lunar movements for religious and
The club says it restricts public access to the mounds during golfing season
because of safety concerns.
Visitors are supposed to view the site from a wooden stand near the parking
lot or from a short trail that borders one side of the course. The club also
offers a few golf-free days to accommodate those wanting to pray at the site.
However, the Historical Society and club officials are considering ways to
improve access, such as additional paths or viewing towers.
In November, Barbara Crandell, 73, of Thornville, was convicted of
trespassing for praying at a mound there in June. The Cherokee descendant
says she has prayed there for 20 years.
Crandell, a member of the Native American Alliance of Ohio, argues that the
land is public and she has a right to be there as a descendant of the people
who built the mounds.
She said that many Ohio mounds that were at one time American Indian
graveyards now are piles of dirt. She blames archeologists.
"The remains aren't in there anymore. They're up on a shelf at the Historical
Society and at universities, probably in shoeboxes," she said. "How about
just letting us bury our dead? How about just leaving the graves alone?"
© 2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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