Research

"The people who built these mounds were brilliant. Their genius lies in combining complexity and simplicity simultaneously. Their mathematical and astronomical complexities challenge our mental capacity while simultaneously their simplistic structures evoke a calming, soothing and in some instances a spiritual effect. These people have for the most part been overlooked, unrecognized and unappreciated. Today we have an opportunity to change that and it is our responsibility to do so."
-Chief Glenna Wallace, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma at the World Heritage Celebration at the Great Circle Earthworks, Heath Ohio. Image courtesy of Timothy E. Black.

Stepping Out and Stepping Up: The Land-Grant Truth and Reconciliation Project

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone and Stepping Up to Our Responsibilities
Stepping Out & Stepping Up Social Justice Project logo of two ears of corn centered around three heads of grain.

 

 

The Stepping Out and Stepping Up Racial Justice Project has been the recipient of two awards in the month of December 2020.

First, our team was one of 10 awardees from the initial round of The Ohio State University’s Seed Fund for Racial Justice.  

More information about this grant can be found here

Principle Investigator: Stephen M. GavazziCollege of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Community Partner: Michael Roberts, First Nations Development Institute [external link]

Co-Investigators:

In partnership with First Nations Development Institute [external link], this team seeks to address the forced exile of Native Americans during the establishment of the State of Ohio and the dispossession of tribal lands by the U.S. government to fund the establishment of Ohio State.


Deliverables from this project will include:

Outcome 1

Leveraging First Nations Development Institute’s connections with Tribal Nations across the U.S. – who were removed from Ohio or whose land was granted to Ohio State – to facilitate new dialogue between Native peoples and representatives of our university.

Outcome 2

Developing an initial understanding of what specific reparative actions would most benefit the Native American communities impacted by this land dispossession and the process by which it could be jointly designed. Findings from this immediate deliverable will be reported in both scholarly publications and presentations at professional conferences, as well as a workbook for use by other land-grant universities in planning for their own reparation activities.

Outcome 3

Advancing a Land Acknowledgment statement that moves our university away from its current “past tense” and more sentimental recognition of transgressions and toward an indigenous relationship that reminds the Ohio State community about the pervasiveness of colonialism and the opportunity to foster a mindfulness of our present-day obligations, thus establishing a more genuine relationship upon which future interactions can be based.

Outcome 4

Formulating a demonstration/research project at Newark Earthworks regarding indigenous farming practices, with attention to how traditional practices may improve food sovereignty in Native American communities, and the incorporation of indigenous agricultural practices into a new College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sustainable Agriculture major and modern agricultural practices.

Outcome 5

Recommending to Ohio State and the State of Ohio a reconciliation plan with both the people and process required for progress and plan elements that may include, for example: a) providing economic development and technical assistance to tribal families and communities; b) assisting with innovative strategies for land tenure and financing of Native American food system infrastructure; and c) designing a scholarship program for indigenous people whose families and tribal communities have been affected by university-related dispossession.


Press and Publications

​​​​​​​"Toward Truth and Reconciliation: Present-Day Indigenous Peoples in Ohio"

Second, our team received a Collaborative Centers Grant from Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme. This second award was the result of an emerging partnership with The Ohio State University’s Humanities Institute. 

The release of the Land-Grab Universities Report [external link] in March 2020 has been accompanied by mounting calls to bring justice in response to the harm visited upon Native Americans during the establishment of states and land-grant universities. In this project, the Newark Earthworks Center seeks to fund a post-doctoral position that would create dialogue both within the Ohio State community and among other land-grant institutions on the truth and reconciliation topics as they relate to Indigenous peoples. Submitted in partnership with the Humanities Institute, this effort is designed in part to help build reciprocity and redistribution methodologies and engage in other humanities-based scholarship surrounding tribal issues and land-grant universities.

Deliverables from this project will include:

Outcome 1

A web-based catalogue of Native American-serving agencies and organizations in Ohio, as well as a more refined understanding of the various constituencies served by these enterprises.

Outcome 2

The web-based presentation of the historical sweep of American Indians in Ohio, including the development of a narrative concerning their adaptation to geographical separation from their tribes and lack of recognition and support from the state of Ohio regarding their existence and needs.

Outcome 3

Creation of an exhibit – curated by Newark Earthworks Center Director John N. Low (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi [external link] ) – detailing the ancestral Native peoples of the region and the work of the Newark Earthworks Center that will be shown at the LeFevre Gallery on the Newark campus (to be shown virtually if future shutdowns due to Covid-19 are mandated).

Outcome 4

One keynote presentation and one panel discussion that will focus attention on the scholarly work that addresses past and present colonialism within and among land-grant universities. The presentation and panel discussions will be held live (virtually), will involve some of the most prominent voices in this area and will be recorded and placed on the Newark Earthworks Center's website.


Press

  • Beyond a Land Acknowledgement: Recognizing Shortcomings, Mobilizing Possibilities Panel February 3, 2021. YouTube.
    • Michael Charles (Diné | Navajo Nation [external link] ), Doctoral Candidate,
    • Shannon Gonzales-Miller (Southern Ute- not enrolled), PhD,
    • Melissa Jacob (Citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), PhD,
    • Timothy San Pedro, PhD
    • Deondre Smiles (Leach Lake Band, Ojibwe), PhD,
  • "Roundtable One | On Indigenous Studies Webinar", March 11, 2022.
    • Michael Charles (Diné | Navajo Nation [external link] ) | Postdoctoral Researcher, Newark Earthworks Center; Gregorio Gonzales | Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Comparative Studies; Moderator: Melissa Curley | Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Studies; Moderator: John Low (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi) | Director of Newark Earthworks Center
  • "Searching for Sustainable Solutions in the Face of Injustice" at Cop26 in Glasgow.
  • Newark Earthworks Center Exhibit at the LeFevre Art Gallery, Autumn 2021.

Land Acknowledgement

Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma members in regalia at the Great Circle earthworks, part of the Newark Earthworks at the World Heritage Celebration. Image courtesy of David Bernstein.
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma members in regalia at the Great Circle earthworks, part of the Newark Earthworks at the World Heritage Celebration. Image courtesy of David Bernstein.

A land acknowledgment is a statement that runs counter to many historical narratives about the colonization and settling of North America, and it is intended to be provocative. 

In some settings and circumstances, it is an act of resistance.  

In others, it is a statement of support and, well, acknowledgment of the American Indian history of every single place in North America. 

It is crucial for each statement to reflect the unique circumstances of each location and personal reflection of the speaker.

Monuments of the Scioto Valley

2022-2023 Arts, Technology and Social Change Grant Award Winner

GAHDT’s Arts Creation Grants advance the mission, goals and diversity of the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme by engaging artists and designers across the university in the creation of new, impactful, arts-led research and creative work.

These awards aim to seed cross-disciplinary and collaborative creative responses at the intersections of arts, technology and social change. Technological advances and their broad applications have had a profound impact on almost every aspect of human culture, including the arts. Increasingly, the tools that promise liberatory innovations, democratic access, connectivity and economic growth are the same ones that may serve to exclude, marginalize and reiterate structural inequities and asymmetric power relations.


This project aims to create a modular traveling exhibit on the Native American earthworks of central Ohio’s Scioto Valley by using contemporary technology to build awareness and scholarship around the region’s most important historical features.

Principal Investigators:

  • John Low (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi), Associate Professor of Comparative Studies;
  • Justin Parscher, Assistant Professor of Practice, Landscape Architecture;
  • Jacob Boswell, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture; 
  • Beth Blostein Professor of Architecture; and
  • Bart Overly, Lecturer of Architecture

    Ancient Indigenous Monuments and Modern Indigenous Art

    Our team received a Indigenous Arts and Humanities Research Grant from Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme. The Newark Earthworks Center (NEC) and the Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise will collaborate to bring American Indian artists, writers, scholars and activists for short residencies to explore the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks (HCE) of central Ohio and engage with students and faculty. Each five-day residency would include an inclusive and expansive tour of the HCE; two video interviews, one pre-and one post-HCE encounter; a public presentation; and a master class or other medium-appropriate masters experience. 

    Principal Investigators:

    Indigenous Ohio: OSU and Native Arts and Humanities Past and Present

    Our team received a Indigenous Arts and Humanities Research Grant from Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme. This interdisciplinary program conceived of by the members of our American Indian Studies program that asks regionally-focused questions about indigeneity  across  the  Ohio  region.  Indigenous  Ohio  will  foster  interdisciplinary  inquiry  across  The Ohio State University and  broader  Midwestern academic  communities with  questions  impacting  indigenous  studies  and  practices  in the arts and humanities; highlight  the  depth  of  North  American  indigenous  studies  at  The  Ohio  State  University;  facilitate  and encourage  student  involvement  with  indigenous  North  American  arts  and  humanities;  and  explore  a  diverse range of ways that indigenous arts and humanities focused in the  Ohio region can engage global issues.

    Principle Investigators:

    Collaborators:


    Press

    Exhibits

    Three baskets made of splints from the Black Ash tree. Some strips are colored a deep brown and a soft black.
    Our Storytellers Bodéwadmi Wisgat Gokpenagen The Black Ash Baskets of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
    Coming soon to Louella Hodges Reese Hall at The Ohio State University Newark!
    Ancient Ohio Trail Ancient Ohio Landscapes exhibit with Dr. Shiels. Image courtesy of Timothy E. Black.
    Past
    Investigate our history, past events, and exhibits... ​

    World Heritage Ohio

    We are a Proud Steering Committee Member of World Heritage Ohio
    World Heritage Ohio Experts Meeting group photo, 2013. Image courtesy of Timothy E. Black.
    World Heritage Ohio group photo, 2013.

     

     

     

    Several sites in Ohio are poised to join the extremely prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, with more than 1000 other properties around the globe, including the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and Stonehenge. World Heritage inscription is based on stringent criteria [external link], and signifies outstanding universal value to humanity. Making the list helps ensure a site’s permanent preservation, enhanced understanding, deeper appreciation, and increased tourism.


    Ohio and the U.S. Tentative List.

    Three nominations in Ohio are among 20 currently on the “U.S. Tentative List” [external link] from which nominees will be drawn to go forward for inscription in the coming years. Efforts are now well underway to prepare our Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks [external link]  to go forward; while Serpent Mound [external link]  and the Dayton Aviation Sites [external link] will follow afterwards.


    The World Heritage Program

    The World Heritage Program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [external link] was established to encourage the permanent protection of cultural and natural treasures around the globe. With inspiration from America’s National Park system, and leadership from the U.S. under the Nixon administration, an international treaty (called the Convention) was signed in 1972, with the U.S. as the first signatory. Today, 191 countries have ratified the Convention. The U.S. has 23 Inscribed Sites so far, ten of which are cultural. The entire worldwide list of around 1,000 properties can be explored on an interactive map [external link].


    The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.

    Summary graphic of photos from or reconstructed aerial views of the sites within the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks UNESCO World Heritage nomination.

     

     

    The UNESCO World Heritage nomination of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks [external link] is actively in preparation by our collaborative, multi-institutional steering committee, and includes:


    Serpent Mound

    Aerial view of Serpent Mound, Adams County. Image courtesy of Timothy E. Black.

     

     

     

    Serpent Mound, probably built several hundred years after the Hopewell-era sites, is the largest documented surviving example of an ancient effigy mound in the world. It is part of the tradition of effigy building among some American Indian cultures in what is now the eastern United States, and is the greatest masterpiece of that tradition both here and elsewhere in the world. The sinuous, artistically-striking monumental sculpture is more than 1,200 feet long. It embodies fundamental spiritual and cosmological principles that still resonate with many Tribal Nations today, including astronomical alignments that mark the seasons.


    How to Help Now.

    Only 23 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites are located in the US, and none are in Ohio. But Ohioans are now working actively to advance the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks – currently on the U.S. “Tentative List” which means they are eligible – to become inscribed. We encourage you to visit these sites and the communities they’re located in so that you can tell your friends, your family and your elected leaders about the importance of these amazing places. Let them know you think these sites deserve to be the next U.S. nomination for World Heritage. Thank you!

    The Fertile Earth and the Ordered Cosmos: Reflections on the Newark Earthworks and World Heritage.

     

    The Fertile Earth and the Ordered Cosmos: Reflections on the Newark Earthworks and World Heritage. Edited by Elizabeth Weiser, Timothy Jordan, and Richard Shiels. The Ohio State University Press, June 2023.

     

    Edited by Elizabeth Weiser, Timothy Jordan, and Richard Shiels. The Ohio State University Press.

    Available for purchase June 2023! $24.95 in Paperback and PDF EBook editions. 

    Rising in quiet grandeur from the earth in an astoundingly engineered arrangement that ancient peoples mapped to the movements of the moon, Ohio’s Newark Earthworks form the largest geometric earthen complex ever known. In the two thousand years of their existence, they have served as gathering place, ceremonial site, fairground, army encampment, golf course, and park. And, at long last, they are poised (along with neighboring sites) to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site—a designation that recognizes their international importance as a direct link to the ancient past as well as their continuing cultural and archaeological significance.

    The lush photos and wide-ranging essays of The Fertile Earth and the Ordered Cosmos honor this significance, not only to the global community but to local individuals and scholars who have developed intimate connections to the Earthworks. In sharing their experiences with this ancient site, public historians, archaeologists, physicists, architects, and others—including local and Indigenous voices—continue the work of nearly two hundred years of citizen efforts to protect and make accessible the Newark Earthworks after centuries of stewardship by Indigenous people. The resulting volume serves as a rich primer on the site for those unfamiliar with its history and a beautifully produced tribute for those who are already acquainted with its wonders.

    All proceeds from the sale of this book go to support the Ohio History Connection and the Newark Earthworks Center in their efforts to manage and interpret the site for the world.

    The Newark Earthworks: Enduring Monuments, Contested Meanings

    The Newark Earthworks Enduring Monuments, Contested Meanings book cover. University of Virginia Press, 2016.

     

     

    Considered a wonder of the ancient world, the Newark Earthworks—the gigantic geometrical mounds of earth built nearly two thousand years ago in the Ohio valley--have been a focal point for archaeologists and surveyors, researchers and scholars for almost two centuries. In their prime one of the premier pilgrimage destinations in North America, these monuments are believed to have been ceremonial centers used by ancestors of Native Americans, called the "Hopewell culture," as social gathering places, religious shrines, pilgrimage sites, and astronomical observatories. Yet much of this territory has been destroyed by the city of Newark, and the site currently "hosts" a private golf course, making it largely inaccessible to the public.

    The first book-length volume devoted to the site, The Newark Earthworks reveals the magnitude and the geometric precision of what remains of the earthworks and the site’s undeniable importance to our history. Including contributions from archaeologists, historians, cultural geographers, and cartographers, as well as scholars in religious studies, legal studies, indigenous studies, and preservation studies, the book follows an interdisciplinary approach to shine light on the Newark Earthworks and argues compellingly for its designation as a World Heritage Site.
    -University of Virginia Press. [external link]

    We have been privileged to feature the following scholars in our book:


    • Glenna Wallace, Chief, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma [external link].
      • "Foreword"
    • Lindsay Jones, Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University.
      • "Introduction: I Had No Idea! Competing Claims to Distinction at the Newark Earthworks"
    • Richard D. Shiels, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of History, and former Director, Newark Earthworks Center, The Ohio State University.
      • "The Newark Earthworks Past and Present"
    • Bradley T. Lepper, Curator of Archaeology, Ohio History Connection [external link].
      • "The Newark Earthworks: A Monumental Engine of World Renewal"
    • Ray Hively, Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Physics, Earlham College and Robert Horn, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College
      • "The Newark Earthworks: A Grand Unification of Earth, Sky and Mind"
    • Helaine Silverman, Professor, Department of Anthropology, and Director, Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy, University of Illinois
      • "An Andeanist's Perspective on the Newark Earthworks"
    • Stephen H. Lekson, Curator of Archaeology, Museum of Natural History, and Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder
      • "Hopewell and Chaco: The Consequences of Rituality"
    • Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology, and Director, Center for Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Bournemouth University, Dorset, United Kingdom
      • "Beyond Newark: Prehistoric Ceremonial Centers and Their Cosmologies"
    • John E. Hancock, Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture and Interior Design, and former Director, Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS), University of Cincinnati .
      • "The Newark Earthworks as "Works" of Architecture"
    • Thomas Barrie, Professor, School of Architecture, North Carolina State University
      • "The Newark Earthworks as a Liminal Place: A Comparative Analysis of Hopewell-Period Burial Rituals and Mounds with a Particular Emphasis on House Symbolism"
    • Margaret Wickens Pearce, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Kansas; [Citizen Potawatomi [external link] ].
      • "The Cartographic Legacy of the Newark Earthworks"
    • Thomas S. Bremer, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Rhodes College
      • "The Modern Religiosity of the Newark Earthworks
    • Marti L. Chaatsmith, Associate Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, The Ohio State University; (Comanche Nation/Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Descendant [external link] ).
      • "Native (Re)Investments in Ohio: Evictions, Earthworks Preservation, and Tribal Stewardship"
    • Mary N. MacDonald, Professor Emerita, Department of Religious Studies, Le Moyne College
      • "Whose Earthworks? Newark and Indigenous People"
    • Duane Champagne, Professor, Department of Sociology, American Indian Studies Program, and School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles; (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa [external link] ) and Carole Goldberg, Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles.
      • "The Peoples Belong to the Land: Contemporary Stewards for the Newark Earthworks
    • Greg Johnson, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder
      • "Caring for Depressed Cultural Sites, Hawaiian Style"
    • Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University
      • "Imagining "Law-Stuff" at the Newark Earthworks"

    The Ancient Ohio Trail

    The Ancient Ohio Trail Logo

    Immerse yourself in the heartland of ancient America, where spectacular cultures created the largest concentration of geometric earthen architecture in the world.

    Explore their vast and precise enclosures, effigies, embankments and walled hilltops. See their dazzling art works preserved in area museums.

    A complete travel experience awaits you along the Ancient Ohio Trail

    Discover why OHIO was the cultural epicenter of North America two thousand years ago!

    Publications and Presentations

     [external links]

    Ohio Native Heritage Archive

    Ohio Native Oral History Project Logo.

     

     

    The recorded interviews are stored in the Ohio State Newark library's Ohio Native Heritage Archive and are available for use by the public by appointment.

    ACCESS INFORMATION

    • Hours of operation are by appointment.
    • Photocopying is available.
    • Reference assistance is available.

    Selected ONHA Resources

    From 2004 to 2009, "Discovering the Stories of Native Ohio" connected our teaching with community outreach and research. Linked to seven courses, this endeavor trained students in both interview methods and American Indian history and culture. Students, staff, volunteers and faculty interviewed 115 people at Ohio State, in their homes or workplaces, at three powwows sponsored by the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, and at the American Indian Education Center of Cleveland. We also collaborated with other Native American organizations. This provided an opportunity for students to meet and talk with Native people and to build an archive about the personal experiences and stories of contemporary American Indians.

    The Charles and Patricia Buser Collection

    Front of the Charles and Patricia Buser Collection Brochure.

    Overview of the Collection

    Repository: Rare Books and Manuscripts Library
    Identification: Spec.rare.cms.319
    Creators: Charles and Patricia Buser
    Title: The Charles and Patricia Buser Collection of Research Materials on Native American Cultures
    Dates: 1700s (in photocopies) through 2005
    Quantity: 13 boxes
    Description: The collection includes audiotapes, transcriptions, notes and research on the Wyandot language. In addition, there are many articles, as well as complete newsletters or other publications related to their study of the Wyandot tribe and other Native Americans. There is a significant amount of correspondence, both professional and personal, and a number of photographs.

    Collected External Resources

    Pile of ripe corn. Image courtesy of The Ohio State University.

    Including Blogs, Centers, Committees, Institutes, Societies, Historical Sources, Midwest American Indian and Earthworks Videos, Informative Links, Museums and Historic Sites, News Sites, and Online Exhibits.

    Simulated moonrise over the Newark Earthworks' observatory mound as it would have been 200 B.C. - 400 A.D. Image Courtesy of the Ancient Ohio Trail and CERHAS of the University of Cincinnati.
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