As we have been collecting the equipment, artifacts, buildings and history of our European/American ancestors who settled in the Northern Ohio area, we have always been mindful of the Peoples who were here first. The house I was raised in is about 210 years old now. The floor joists that where used in the building of the original part of the house are tree trunks that still retain their bark. These trees must have been at least 50 years old when they were cut. 260 years ago, those trees were growing in woods that knew only the passing of the Original People, including Seneca’s, Erie’s or Delaware’s and others. The home I reside in now is built of wood from trees that were growing at least 270 years ago. I have wondered who might have leaned against that poplar tree to rest a moment while walking or playing or hunting? We have often found arrow heads and various stone tools as we have turned the soil. And we have been told many stories of farmers who collected buckets of such artifacts as they walked slowly behind their plow horses.
It has only really been a relatively short time since the Original People’s were displaced as “us” peoples arrived. A friend of mine, a bit younger than me and also from Richfield, told me a story once. He said he was just two handshakes from the Original People who lived here before the “new” people. As a boy, my friend spent time with his great uncle, who in turn, knew an older man when he was young. My friend “shook hands” with his uncle, who in turn “shook hands” with the older man who had grasped the hand of the last of the resident local Indians. That is how fast some of the original families of Richfield experienced the changing world of Northern Ohio.
There are still native peoples living in Ohio, but sadly they have no collective land base. There are reservations in many places in many states, but none in Ohio. There are as many as 5 to 7,000 people of many original nations living in Northern Ohio, but only as individuals and sometimes members of social or cultural organizations, and members of several Akron and Cleveland Indian Centers. Many of them have been friends and some occasionally visit the farm.
Until just a few years ago, I had spent a majority of my time and had more friends on various Reservations across the U.S. than I did in “white” society or amongst “white” people. I became a member of The Seneca Indian Historical Society and a teacher of The Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge. I was family adopted by Lakota friends and became director of The Lakota Elders Survival Fund. I counted many Elders, Ceremonial Leaders and Medicine People among my closest friends, most of whom are passed now. Some of them knew a time when very few “others” were amongst them. There are very few left who can still tell the stories as the stories were told to me so many years ago now.
As a part of The Museum, we will create a separate area to keep the many gifts, works of art, tools, books and sacred objects I have been given or collected over the years. And we will pass on the stories and Wisdom as we were asked to do.
We give thanks and say Nyah-weh. Jim
Note: Some of you may feel a special interest in helping to build the lodge for this very meaningful “collection”. It will stand in a separate area under the trees, next to the Circle of Stones, that some call a Medicine Wheel. Nearby will be a Purification Lodge. This grouping of dwellings, artifacts and ceremonial grounds of an earlier time and culture will be available for use by those of understanding. Be sure to let us know if you would like to be notified when it comes time to build and dedicate this area.