Respecting a piece of history

The beauty of blue skies, the smell of honeysuckle, and the sounds of dancers from the Chickasaw Nation all filled the air at the dedication of the Ingomar Mounds site last Thursday afternoon.

Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum and project director for the Ingomar Mounds site, said she’s had the dream of opening this site to the public as an educational, historical, and cultural site for approximately 10 years.  Now, thanks to countless volunteer hours from many people, including Zack Stewart, Smith said her dream has finally come to fruition.

Ingomar Mounds is a Middle Woodland Indian site that is carbon dated 2,000-2,200 years ago and is said to be a part of the Chickasaw Indian homeland. Records suggest that there were approximately 13 mounds built on this site, but there is only on left standing. The 63-acre plot of land was originally owned by the Burchfield family.

In 1868, local Reverend Samuel Agnew wrote a letter to the Smithsonian about this site and asked them to come and check out the site. Agnew was associated with Hopewell Baptist Church. The Smithsonian came to look at the site in either 1884 or 1886. The Smithsonian crew believed that the site was built by aliens, the mounds were built on cardinal directions, and they dug up many American Indians. The latest American Indian affiliation was Chickasaw and the last King of the Chickasaws lived one mile from the site. This region was Chickasaw region and there are approximately 28,000 Native American sites in Mississippi.

Smith said, “This is the oldest manmade site in our county and in our region. The goal is to educate visitors about this site and to respect the land. Some say it is viewed as a church and a cemetery. This is a spiritual place that needs to be treated with respect.”

Jessica Crawford, Southeastern US Representative for the Archaeological Conservancy, said, “I want to welcome the Chickasaw Nation to this site and I want to thank Jill Smith, Zack Stewart, and the Board of Supervisors for making this site a place that the Archaeological Conservancy can educate people. I want to thank Jill for all of her dedication and outstanding service and I want to give her the Golden Trowel Award on behalf of the Archaeological Conservancy.

Mike Armour, director of the Appalachian Regional Commission, had planned on speaking but couldn’t come because he was busy helping assess the region’s recent tornado and thunderstorm damage.

Hank Holmes, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, came before the audience and spoke. He said, “I am amazed and impressed at the partnership in this county. This mound is a place of national significance and I want to commend the city and county for their hard work and especially Jill Smith for her work and dedication.”

Holmes told the crowd that there is a Mississippi Mound Trail being created, with the initial funding from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. This trail will connect sites throughout the state on behalf of historical tourism. The Ingomar Mounds site will be a highlight of this trail.

Eddie Post Oak from the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Ada, Okla., said, “Most of us in our dance troupe are very traditional about our grounds and we are asking our family here to forgive us and keep us in peace. As we learned in our tradition, we are not supposed to do this type of celebration…this is  sacred land. All we ask is that you respect this site and ask everyone else to do the same.”

Chickasaw Elder Leerene Frazier gave a traditional blessing and blessed the site. Then the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Dancers performed a prayer dance, a friendship dance, a stomp dance, and a long dance.

 There is interpretive signage, a gravel parking lot, stairs that lead up to the mound, and a one-mile walking trail at this site. Ingomar Mounds is located off of County Road 96 in the Ingomar Community. The site is closed at dusk. There is a sign there that reads, “Take photos, but leave nothing but footprints.” For more information, contact Jill Smith at the Union County Heritage Museum at 662-538-0014.