News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Local & Bistate

August 27, 2012

Sacred soil

With help of offenders, 1,500-year-old Kickapoo Indian burial ground being developed

FAIRBANKS — The whirring sound of saws filled the air, but underneath, one could hear the beating of a drum.

Minimum-security offenders from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility were cutting wood Sunday afternoon, deep along the backroads of rural Fairbanks where the Sullivan County American Indian Council Inc. has established a heritage site now referred to as Waapaahsiki Siipiiwi.

Hugh Oxendine, a member of the council and of Lumbee Indian ancestry himself, was out helping clear the wooded site, excited about future developments there which include a museum, council headquarters and youth campgrounds. The group hopes to have those up and ready by next spring.

“There’s a lot of really neat things happening out here,” he said near the mulched trails leading toward an ancient mound.

Last April, archaeologists from Indiana University visited the mound in conjunction with the council, performing a dig at the site now believed to have been a Kickapoo Indian burial ground in use 1,500 years ago. Oxendine said the archaeological team found nearly 600 artifacts while there last year.

A storied past

Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn) walked through the woods wearing bibbed overalls Sunday, as he has since the project got under way 11⁄2 years ago. Of European ancestry himself, Waterman said similarities between the spiritual traditions of Native Americans and Christians seem quite apparent to him.

In fact, during the tenure of President Thomas Jefferson, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned to find evidence linking Native Americans to the “Lost Tribe of Israel,” he noted. Today, some evidence suggests a DNA link between Hebrews and Native Americans, he said, expressing his appreciation for the stories and lore of both.

Among the artifacts discovered at the site were a Colt revolver from 1860, deer antlers with carvings, and pottery which carbon-dated back 1,500 years. It’s believed the Kickapoo Indians built the mound for ceremonial purposes, and other groups have used it since.

“Long before Terre Haute was even a dream in someone’s head,” he said.

In homage to those traditions, the 10-acre site is being worked into a historical park. Entering the camp site from the road, one approaches a hand-made overpass leading to the mound. The trail is covered with woodchips, lined by railroad ties donated by Indiana Rail Road. And along the path, beneath a canopy of trees, the “7 Grandfather Teachings” are carved into signs: truth, humility, honesty, bravery, respect, love and wisdom.

But it isn’t until one gets to the giant mound that becomes visible the “Medicine Wheel” built by council volunteers and inmates from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. The circle, 70 feet in diameter, contains a cross dividing it into four equal parts.

“It’s basically a spiritual instrument to guide their lives,” Waterman said, explaining the symbolism of seasons, elements and faith. “These old medicine people are very interesting people.”

Ceremonies have been conducted there recently and more are planned, he said. During “the grandfather drum” ceremony, the vibrations of hundreds of drums lining the circle draws the attention of eagles, he noted.

“There were three eagles the last time we did it,” he said.

Working on the grounds provides him a sense of calm he finds comparable to that of leaving church. Similarities abound between Judeo-Christian traditions and those of the Native Americans, he said.

Oxendine said his Lumbee ancestry comes from his father’s side of the family, stretching back to North Carolina. Today, about 35,000 people belong to that tribe, he said. The owner of Cherokee Development Builders in Terre Haute has helped access equipment for the work being done at the site.

“I’m kind of new to the group,” he said, explaining he’s been active less than two years. “I’m an infant in learning about my ancestry.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Israeli Aircraft Hits Dozens of Gaza Targets Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway
NDN Video
Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010