of the past
Americans rally to protect
Indian burial grounds near Austin
dispute complicates efforts by
archaeologists to investigate site
by Konnie McCollum
Americans take part in a drum
ceremony Jan. 27 at the site of an alleged
Indian burial mound near Austin, Ind.
AUSTIN, Ind. (February 2007) A 145-acre farm
located just west of Madison, Ind., has recently garnered attention
as a possible Indian burial site that is being threatened by residential
development. The farm, located at 2077 Terry Rd. near Hwy. 256 east
of Austin, has been owned by Jerry Seavers family since Aug. 3,
1914. But it is now is in the center of a property rights battle that
has landed in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago as part of
a foreclosure case.
Despite the ongoing legal battle over who actually owns the property,
Melissa Seaver, Jerrys wife, has worked to get part of the farm
classified as an official archaeological site until more research can
be done to determine if it is indeed an Indian burial ground. According
Melissa Seaver, the site now has been registered with the Indiana Department
of Natural Resources and has an archaeological site number. If so designated,
this would protect it from being razed or desecrated by any construction
or farming until further archaeological work is conducted. DNR officials
in Indianapolis would not comment on the case or confirm that the site
had been so classified because of the ongoing property ownership dispute.
by Konnie McCollum
Americans Kevin and
Jeannine Johanson present Jerry and
Melissa Seavers (center) with an Indian
blanket to thank them for their
efforts to protect the site.
A press conference to address the issue and an Indian
pipe ceremony were held Jan. 27 at the site. Native Americans from a
variety of tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, the Oglala Sioux, Cherokee,
Miami and Pottawattamie gathered to participate in the spiritual ceremony
to honor ancestors that may be buried on the grounds.
Seaver said throughout the years, the family would find bits and pieces
of pottery or arrowheads around the large mounds of earth that are on
the property. No one really paid much attention to it. She said when
her husband was young, he would dig around what he referred to as the
bulldozed piles and find Indian artifacts, which even included
a tomahawk, but he didnt realize the significance of those finds.
She realized about three years ago what those mounds could possibly
contain and started at that point trying to get help from various agencies
and authorities to look into the matter. It has been a long process
to try to get on a protection list to save the site, she said.
Indians from all over the state gathered at the site in May 2006 to
conduct a ceremony. They prayed for spiritual help, held a feast and
did a ceremonial drum beat for hours, said Seaver.
Finally, last October, Louisville-based archaeologist Anne Bader visited
the site and conducted a preliminary dig. According to Seaver, Bader
was convinced by the evidence collected during the dig that the site
may indeed contain Indian artifacts. She helped secure a DNR registered
archaeology site number, according to Seaver.
Bader could not be reached for comment.
by Konnie McCollum
medicine man Steve McCullough leads a
ceremony Jan. 27 at
the Seavers farm
near Austin, Ind.
Seaver said the officials who visited the farm think the
site may have been an entire village that ran along Flat Creek in Jennings
Township in Scott County. She said archaeologists speculate that the
artifacts are from a Miami Tribe living in the area during the 1500s
or 1600s. There is also evidence to suggest that some of the artifacts
are from the Shawnee Tribe and the Pottawattamies as well. More research
could determine exactly how old the artifacts are and to whom they belonged.
Seaver also said the actual size of the area, according to the archaeologists,
is much larger than first thought. We thought there were only
three mounds, but the experts see much more, she said. Apparently,
nearly four acres of the farm is thought to contain the Indian artifacts.
In the meantime, Seaver said there has been continued looting and vandalism
to the mounds. We have tried to guard against looters, and we
have tried not to disturb the mounds, she said.
According to Indiana archaeology law, no person can disturb archaeology
sites with artifacts dating before Dec. 11, 1816, or human remains dating
on or before Dec. 31, 1939, without an approved permit from the Indiana
Steve McCullough, a Lakota Sioux medicine man who took part in the January
ceremony, said he believes the site is sacred and they need to work
hard to save it.
We appreciate the Seavers doing what they can to save this site
from destruction because it is an important part of our ancestry,
Back to February 2007