Archeologist stresses need to preserve Adena mounds at Wright-Patt

Erwin Roemer, Cultural Resources subject matter specialist, stands next to the largest mound at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, located on the north corner of Hobson Way and Ninth Street, Area B. Roemer explained the Native American tribes wanted the trees cut down so the roots would not damage the mound. This mound is the third largest mound in the Miami Valley, and it is believed this mound’s location and those of the Wright Brothers Memorial were placed intentionally relative to each other. (U.S. Air Force photo/W. Eugene Barnett)
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Erwin Roemer, Cultural Resources subject matter specialist, stands next to the largest mound at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, located on the north corner of Hobson Way and Ninth Street, Area B. Roemer explained the Native American tribes wanted the trees cut down so the roots would not damage the mound. This mound is the third largest mound in the Miami Valley, and it is believed this mound’s location and those of the Wright Brothers Memorial were placed intentionally relative to each other. (U.S. Air Force photo/W. Eugene Barnett)

The Adena mounds at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are important to preserve for several reasons, said Erwin Roemer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center archeologist assisting the base.

“First, they are direct, highly important connections to the cultural heritage of modern American Indians,” Roemer said. “A number of federally recognized tribes are in consultation on a regular basis with WPAFB regarding preservation of these ancient features. Another factor of importance is that so many of these unique features have been damaged, if not obliterated, by land development, starting with deforestation and agricultural impacts of 1800s American settlers, relic hunters and natural effects.”

These special monuments of American Indian heritage became WPAFB property, which has protected them in ways that otherwise would not have occurred.

“That’s especially important because these types of mounds functioned centuries ago as sacred sites, and the base’s tribal stakeholders today continue to view them as such,” Roemer said “Also, American Indians have the highest percent participation of any ethnic group in our military branches. So I think it is a special bonus for the base and the Air Force that these features can be part of our installation landscape where Airmen who are American Indians, for whatever duration they may be assigned here and regardless of specific tribal affiliation, can be aware of these special features constructed and used by our nation’s original communities.

“A number of federally recognized tribes today, though removed geographically, attach cultural importance to the Adena mounds at Wright-Patterson,” said Roemer. “And the base consults regularly with such stakeholders regarding base stewardship and interpretation of the mounds.”

The installation tribal liaison officer is Raymond Baker, and National Historic Preservation Act coordination with tribes is facilitated by WPAFB’s Cultural Resources Manager Paul Woodruff.

The base is working with five Native American tribes on best practices for preservation and interpretation of the mounds on base, according to Woodruff.

“We are always looking for means to preserve them,” he said. “We appreciate the importance of the early Native Americans and the heritage they represent.”

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The Native American tribal representatives engaged are Historical Preservation, Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa; Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Baraga, Michigan; the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan; Tribal Archaeologist, Seneca Nation of Indians, Salamanca, New York; and THPO, Seneca Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma, Grove, Oklahoma.

Located in an area of the Wright Memorial, northwest of the memorial plaza are six Adena burial mounds listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 19, 2016. According to the National Register nomination for the mounds completed in 1971, the six mounds range from 1.7 feet high with a 20-foot diameter to 4.2 feet high with a 50-foot diameter. The mounds are thought to have been built by the Adena people sometime between 500 B.C. and 300 A.D.

For more information, contact Roemer at 937-656-1281 or via email at Erwin.roemer@us.af.mil. Woodruff at 937-257-1374 or email at paul.woodruff@us.af.mil.