By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
INGOMAR – People came to the Ingomar Mounds site on Thursday to dedicate the place and to acknowledge roots that go deep in Union County soil.
Among them were scholars, locals and members of the Chickasaw Nation whose ancestors peopled this region.
Those whose roots are deepest here, however, were the Middle Woodland Indians – forerunners of the Chickasaw – who created the mounds, and whose remains are buried in them.
The Chickasaw Nation dancers in attendance were grateful for the preservation but had mixed emotions about its being opened to the public.
“Most of you are here for a celebration,” said Cultural Resources Director Eddie Post Oak. “For us, it’s more of coming up here and asking our family here to forgive us.
Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum and project director for the mounds site, said, “What we try to do is to educate … to use it only for good and respectful purposes.”
Earlier settlers were not always as concerned. Some of the smaller of the 14 mounds were plowed and plundered into oblivion.
Around 2005, the Archaeological Conservancy bought the site, but Smith largely saw to fundraising, compiling scholarship and recruiting such dedicated workers as former Transportation Commissioner Zach Stewart.
“We don’t have a lot of funds that we can use for interpretation,” said Jessica Crawford of the Archaeological Conservancy. “Jill’s taking this project on was a wonderful thing for us.” In a surprise move, Crawford presented Smith with the Archaeological Conservancy’s Golden Trowel Award “for dedication and outstanding service.”
Hank Holmes of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History said the site also will be included in a new tourism initiative, the Mississippi Mounds Trail.