American Indian Places presents 366 places that are significant to American Indians. Each place is open to the public and provides information about that significance. The book does not include places that became significant after 1900. Because so many voices speak through the book, it is more than place-based history. The Native voices share their emotional and cultural responses to the places and provide insights into what they mean to Native people. Many of the Native authors also tell about their people today. The non-Native voices provide archaeological and historical information about the cultures that these places embody. Thanks to all of these voices, American Indian Places has become a way to learn about Indian peoples and cultures from a perspective grounded in the places they revere.
The places are organized in five geographic sections, determined by the homelands and subsequent movements of the peoples for whom the places are significant. Within each section, the places are presented in rough chronological order according to the period of their most intense significance. If the significance of a place is not limited to a specific time, the place is presented after one that is nearby geographically. The places are numbered continuously throughout the book, and each place is followed by the abbreviation of the state name, to facilitate locating them on the section maps.
People who know and revere the places wrote essays on 229 of them. I wrote the short entries for 137 of the places, with the generous assistance of people who know them well (any errors are my own). As place-based history, this book cannot, by its very nature, tell about American Indians as comprehensively as books such as the Encyclopedia of North American Indians or The People: A History of Native America. So the book begins with three essays that provide an overview of the history of American Indians prior to 1900. Additional essays throughout the text provide general information about Native peoples…
1. Flint Ridge, OH
Off I-70 on Rte. 668, north of Brownsville Museum
About 10,000 years ago people began quarrying flint in a five-square-mile area here. They shaped the flint into knives, projectile points, and other tools, which were traded so widely that they have been found from the Atlantic coast to western Missouri.
2. Isle Royale National Park, MI:
The Minong Mine
Caven Clark and Tim Cochrane
By ferry from Houghton and Copper Harbor, MI, and from Grand Portage, MN
People began mining copper at Isle Royale National Park possibly as early as 4500 B.C. The copper is in the Keweenawan geologic formation and is also a component of the glacial drift concentrated by water action along the shorelines and in riverbeds to the south of the formation. Much of the mining was along the Minong Ridge, which the early people — and more recently the Ojibwe — reached by canoeing into McCargoe Cove. They left hundreds of pit and fissure mines as well as the cobble hammerstones used to separate the nearly pure copper from the basalt bedrock. They used cold-hammering techniques to make spear points, gaffs, hooks, awls, and other tools. More recent people made smaller objects, including knives and beads. They traded or exchanged copper as far as the Ohio Valley and Illinois, where it was fabricated into highly ornamented objects. The Ojibwe revered copper and associated it with the underwater being Mishebeshu, the Long-Tailed Underwater Panther, to which offerings were made for safe canoe passages across the lakes. The Ojibwe also used copper tablets to record clan genealogies.
Rumors and legends of an island made of copper in Lake Superior attracted French, English, and, later, American explorers, but the Indians kept secret the locations of large boulders of pure copper. After they lost control of the copper sites, Ojibwe worked as miners and fishermen on Isle Royale.Minong (the beautiful place in Ojibwe) continues to be important to Grand Portage and Canadian Ojibwe living along the north shore of Lake Superior.
Further reading: "A Risky Business: Late Woodland Copper Mining on Lake Superior," by Caven P. Clark and Susan R.Martin, in The Cultural Landscape of Prehistoric Mines, edited by Peter Topping and Mark Lynott
3. Rock House Reservation, MA
On Rte. 9, east of Ware
Glaciers carved this rock shelter, which people used as a winter camp from as early as 8000 B.C. until about the 1600s.
Early Mound Builders -- Bradley T. Lepper
The fertile valleys of the Ohio River and its many tributaries were home to people known for their prodigious and intricate earthen mounds and enclosures. A cascade of their innovations began to appear in the Ohio Valley by about 800 B.C., when hunting and gathering peoples began to settle in small villages. Their more sedentary way of life was supported by the earliest domesticated plants in this region, including squash, sunflower, maygrass, knotweed, and goosefoot. These early farmers made the region’s first pottery vessels and used them to store or cook their harvested crops. They also acquired exotic materials such as copper and marine shells to make ornaments and ritual objects. One of the most distinctive of these early farming cultures was the Adena, named by archaeologists after the estate of former Ohio governor Thomas Worthington, the location of a renowned burial mound. In the early 1900s archaeologists excavated the mound before it was leveled for cultivation. The most spectacular artifact found in the Adena mound was a marvelous cylindrical pipe sculpted in the form of a man, perhaps a shaman, wearing a decorated loincloth and a feather bustle. (It is now in the Ohio Historical Center.) The Adena culture was centered in southern Ohio, southern Indiana, northern Kentucky, and West Virginia from about 800 B.C. to A.D. 100. The people lived in small, dispersed villages, and the mounds may have been ceremonial hubs connecting networks of neighboring people. Two of the most impressive burial mounds are the Grave Creek and Miamisburg mounds, whereas the Story and Shrum mounds are perhaps more typical in size. Mounds State Park is one of the bestpreserved Adena earthwork centers. (The Adena mounds are places numbered 4 through 11.)
4. Grave Creek Mound Historic Site, WV
801 Jefferson Ave., Moundsville
Delf Norona Museum
This mound, built between about 250 and 150 B.C., was 69 feet high and 295 feet in diameter when measured in 1838.
5. South Charleston Mound, WV
In Staunton Park off U.S. 60 on Seventh Ave., South Charleston
This mound is 35 feet high and 175 feet in diameter.