(The following was written by Bill Howison, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
Over the years there has been much speculation as to who built the mounds of Ohio and Kentucky and what they were used for–ceremonial, burial or signal mounds.
The people who built them have been named everything including the Mound Builders, the Hopewell, and the Adena. I grew up thinking there was a tribe running around calling themselves the Adena. I didn’t know they were given this name by someone digging up some artifacts on Thomas Worthington’s farm.
While I do not wish to enter into the argument as to who, what, or where, I thought some readers might be interested in information I have found during my research on the Historic or Woodland Indians of Ohio.
The first piece of information I found was in the book “Shawnee” written by James H. Howard. While most historians have put the Shawnee into Ohio and Kentucky about 1750, he and others attribute them to part of the “Fort Ancient aspect” which dated from 1400 to 1650 A.D.
Although it is risky to assign historic tribal groups to archaeological finds, there seems to be enough evidence to say that the Fort Ancient Aspect represents at least in part the ancestor of the Shawnee.
Howard quotes from Throwbridge, who interviewed a Shawnee Prophet in 1824: ” The Great Spirit opened a door, and looking down, they saw a white man seated upon the ground. He was naked and was destitute of hair on his head or his body and had been circumcised. The Great Spirit told them that this white man was not made by him but by another spirit who made and governed the whites and over whom or whose subjects he had no control. As soon as they reached their Island and got comfortably situated, this great white spirit would endeavor to thwart his designs and would certainly exert himself to change the period of their existence from 200 years to shorter time.” The Great Spirit had shown them the North American continent prior to putting the first Indian on “the island” and already, according to Indian tradition, we find a white man sitting on it.
In “The Evening Call” by John S. Cole, Charleston, West Virginia, August 1882, is the reference in the Draper papers to Bullet’s attempt to buy land in Kentucky from the Shawnee who were living on the Scioto at the time. “They then informed him that the Indians never owned Kentucky, and that it belonged to the ghosts of murdered white men, women, and children that they called Azons or “people from on Eastern Sea”; that their bones and ghosts owned and occupied every acre of the country, and that they protected the game and had more and better right than any Indian tribe or nation because they didn’t need material food themselves and never liked it.
When the Indians’ food was all exhausted, their squaws and children all starving, the Indian — by appealing to the ghosts of the white mothers, with certain incantation — could get the privilege of killing an elk, bear, deer, or buffalo ; but they were not allowed to kill wantonly or settle in the country of Kentucky.
The ghosts didn’t rise from the mounds and caves and directly slay the Indians; but if they undertook to settle in Kentucky, they set father against son and son against father and neighbor against neighbor and made them kill one another.
(The continuation of this story in the next blog entry.)