The Trend
1:11 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Treading on sacred ground: Native Americans react to IUPUI archaeology fieldwork dig at Angel Mounds

Credit Jeremy Biggs
Editor's note: Glenn Black Lab says it has not been contacted by tribal representatives about ceasing excavations at the Angel Mounds site. You can read the director's statement below:

The word "negotiations" does not really described my interactions with the two THPO's I spoke with on matters tangentially related to work at Angel Mounds. I did receive a call from the THPO for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, George Strack, with a request for copies of the reports written concerning accidental discoveries of human remains for the period of 1995-2012. I also received a call from Robin Dushane of the Eastern Shawnee with a question regarding repatriation efforts on the IU Bloomington campus. I referred Robin to our NAGPRA Executive Director who was better able to answer to her concerns about activities on the IUB campus.

Both conversations did turn to mention of Angel Mounds and the current program, but as asides. I believe that in both cases I indicated that the Glenn Black Laboratory was very interested in communicating with tribal officials in planning for future research (at Angel or anywhere for that matter). My conversations with these respected professionals has been cordial and I will continue to listen carefully to concerns voiced by First Nations representatives, and in the future hope to see greater involvement with tribal historic preservation officers and representatives from the federally recognized tribes (such as Eastern Shawnee and Miami of Oklahoma) that are clear stakeholders in matters of archaeology at Angel Mounds.

Hope this helps,

April K. Sievert, Ph.D.

Director, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology

The Trend will continue to update this story in the weeks ahead. 

This weekend, thousands of visitors will tread the grounds of the Angel Mounds site for its annual Native American Days festival.

The Mississippian tribe that once settled there has no known descendants.

But if they did, what would they say about ongoing archeological excavations on the site?

A group of students sponsored by Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis excavated two mounds this past summer to study how these people interacted with the land and the surrounding area.

But members of several Native American tribes, locally and nationally, are concerned that the research disturbed the final resting place of a community without a descendant’s voice to represent it. 

Woodland Alliance President Jeremy Biggs is a member of the Ojibwa Tribe. Biggs and Todd Mahooty, an Evansville resident who is a member of the Taos Pueblo tribe, visited the team of students and researchers at Angel Mounds after reading a news story about the dig.

There they met Jeremy Wilson, the Research Associate for the Glenn Black Laboratory at IU, on the site. Wilson says this was the first time in his career that he had interacted with Native Americans who expressed concerned about an excavation.

To lay the foundation for this conversation, we’ll hear from Jeremy Biggs, who teaches Native American culture – historical and contemporary – in local schools and universities through his non-profit, the Woodland Alliance. Biggs says the growing collective voice of contemporary Native Americans is making interactions, like the one at the mounds, more common.

An Indiana University-Purdue University fieldwork team excavated a mound at the Angel Mounds this past summer. The program The National Sciences Foundation awarded a three-year $267,204 grant to Jeremy Wilson, an associate professor of anthropology at IU. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant will support excavations at the Mounds until 2015.
An Indiana University-Purdue University fieldwork team excavated a mound at the Angel Mounds this past summer. The program The National Sciences Foundation awarded a three-year $267,204 grant to Jeremy Wilson, an associate professor of anthropology at IU. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant will support excavations at the Mounds until 2015.
Credit Todd Mahooty

IUPUI Assistant Professor and Research Associate for the Glenn Black Laboratory Jeremy Wilson will talk about the research group’s findings, and how they turned an initial conflict with the local Native Americans into a positive learning experience. 

The fieldwork project was supported by a $245,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the excavations until 2015.

Finally, we’ll talk with Todd Mahooty, an Evansville resident who is a member of the Taos Pueblo tribe in New Mexico.

Both Jeremy Biggs from the Woodland Alliance and Jeremy Wilson from the IUPUI excavation say that they will collaborate in the future. Biggs says a big part of that will be repatriating the human remains that have been obtained by the Glenn Black Lab.

Ten tribes, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee in South Carolina, have spoken out against the dig. The Eastern Band of Shawnee in Oklahoma is in negotiations with the Glenn Black Lab and the coordinator from the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to stop the digs at Angel Mounds.

More Information:

The Woodland Alliance

The Glenn Black Laboratory

Angel Mounds

Credit Cass Herrington
Credit Cass Herrington

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