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'Ancients' at Fort Ancient Need You

Manataka Smoke Signal News - March 25, 2009

 

 

Manataka received a number of reports recently concerning the "closing" of the Fort Ancient located seven miles east of Lebanon, near Oregonia, Ohio.  Reports allege that graves and artifacts will be removed and the site will be sold to "developers".   Some reports say that graves will be moved or destroyed and the artifacts in the museum will be lost. 

 

Fort Ancient features 18,000 feet of earthen walls built 2,000 years ago by American Indians, called today the "Hopewell" who used the shoulder blades of deer, split elk antler, clam shell hoes and digging sticks to dig the dirt. They then carried the soil in baskets holding 35 to 40 pounds. Portions of these walls were used in conjunction with the sun and moon to provide a calendar system for these peoples.

The site offers beautiful vistas along hiking trails as well as the remains of the prehistoric mounds for visitors to see. Convenient picnic areas can be found along the road at the site.

The museum at Fort Ancient contains 9000 sq. ft. of exhibits, including many interactive units, focusing on 15,000 years of American Indian history in the Ohio Valley. The Museum also contains a classroom, a research area, and a sales shop with many fine American Indian items.

 

On June 13-14, the Ohio Historical Society will host Fort Ancient Celebrations that honor American Indian contributions to Ohio history.  Some of the activities include dancing, drumming and demonstrations of flint knapping, pottery, finger weaving.  Activities for children include games, crafts, and spear throwing.   Workshops in pottery and dream catchers are offered along with lectures in storytelling, herb lore, and American Indian heritage.

 

Because of its historical importance, Fort Ancient was purchased by the state of Ohio in 1891 and became Ohio's first state park.  Fort Ancient is part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks system that cover a wide area of Ohio.  The Hopewell Mounds, including Fort Ancient, is one of 14 sites nominated in January 2008 by the Department of Interior for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

 

Concerns about the site have been raised by local groups and the American Indian community because of recent news reports about state budget cuts that have forced the site to be open to the public fewer days. 

 

Jack Blosser, an archeologist and site manager at Fort Ancient, confirmed with the Manataka Smoke Signal News that serious budget cuts are causing problems with public access and the number of hours and days the site is open to the public.  "We were forced to cut back on employee hours and reduce the number of open days because our budget was cut by 12-15% this year and future budget cuts will make it difficult to keep the facilities open as much as we would like."

 

The actual shortfall in state funding amounts to over $175,000 for Fort Ancient alone.

 

"We absolutely will never sell Fort Ancient to private developers.  The preservation of this site is far too important and we are committed to maintaining all aspects of this site," Blosser told the Smoke Signal News.

 

"The artifacts will remain in the museum.  The site will be open during daylight hours and educational tours will continue by appointment.  We will make adjustments necessary to staffing and hours, but our goal is to increase public access, not diminish it," said Blosser.

 

Blosser said there is a strong effort underway by the Ohio Historical Society to enlist community partnerships with nonprofit organizations who will maintain the educational, operational and maintenance functions.  It is hoped that community partners can be found who will increase the hours of operation and provide more activities and educational programs.

 

In a March 5, 2009 media release the Ohio Historical Society said it was seeking additional state support and local management partners to keep historic sites open.  29 sites out of 59 historic sites are currently operated through local partnership agreements between the Society and a local organization or government entity. In such agreements, daily operations are performed by the local partner while the Society provides support services in the form of marketing-communications, maintenance, curatorial and fund raising. Managed partnered sites typically receive an annual subsidy and keep income from admission, store sales and facility rentals.

 

Executive Director and CEO Bill Laidlaw of the Ohio Historical Society said, "We will focus on collections and sites preservation, access for research and education, and statewide outreach-three core areas to create a new foundation from which the organization can grow and thrive," Laidlaw said. "These services will provide the strongest return on investment for state dollars and will provide the greatest public value for Ohioans."

 

"We're trying our best to keep these 18 sites open," Laidlaw said. "In general, they are the largest and most significant historic sites that we manage on behalf of the state. An additional $1.2 million would allow more time for the Society to seek out partners to assume the day-to-day responsibilities for managing these sites. Discussions are underway in many of these communities, but potential partnership arrangements take time and financial resources to develop."

The affected sites are located throughout the state: Adena Mansion & Gardens in Chillicothe, Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta; Campus Martius Museum and Ohio River Museum in Marietta; Dunbar House in Dayton; Flint Ridge near Brownsville; Fort Ancient near Oregonia; Fort Hill near Hillsboro; Fort Laurens in New Philadelphia; Fort Meigs in Perrysburg; Harding Home in Marion; National Road/Zane Grey Museum near Norwich; Newark Earthworks in Newark and Heath; Piqua Historical Area in Piqua; Serpent Mound near Peebles; Wahkeena near Lancaster; Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor in Youngstown; and Zoar Village in Zoar. 

 

The citizens of Ohio are starting to get involved in the effort to save the historic sites. An online petition campaign started on March 18 calls on the "Ohio State Representatives and State Senators to allocate additional funding to allow Fort Ancient Historical Site to stay open. The closing of this site is a loss to Native Americans and the public interested in learning about the Native American culture and heritage." 

 

According to Kim Schuette, a media specialist with the Ohio Historical Society said a good way for people to help is to actually visit the historic sites.  "The shortfall in funding can be significantly eased by people who do not want to see a reduction of public access at Fort Ancient and other sites is to come for a visit."

 

Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, serves as the state's partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio's history, archaeology, natural history and architecture. It provides services in nearly every community in the state.

 


 

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