Tribal Traditions

Artifacts, festivals fuel interest
in area’s Native American lore

The Shadow of the Buffalo festival returns to Carrollton

Don Ward

(April 2001) Madison, In – There are many aspects to Kentucky’s rich heritage. One of the earliest is that of the Native Americans. People such as Don Cox, a La Grange, Ky., resident of Cherokee and Apache descent, travel around Kentucky sharing the ways of the Native American.

“We want to educate people in the Native American tradition,” said Cox. “Kentucky is very diversified when it comes to Native American backgrounds.” He added that tribes such as Cherokee, Mohawk, Apache, Seneca, Navajo, Sioux, Shawnee and even Iroquois are just some of the many that have roots in the Northern Kentucky area.
Cox is coordinator for the Shadow of Buffalo Festival, which is in its third year. The festival is held five times a year in various Kentucky locations, in addition to public appearances of a smaller magnitude. The next appearance will be over the weekend of April 27-29 at the Outdoor Classroom, east of Carrollton, Ky.
“Carroll County has been exceptionally good in accepting us in the area,” said Cox.
The outdoor classroom location provides a more remote setting for the festival. The classroom is an outdoor facility leased to the Carroll County Board of Education by Dow Corning. It is used throughout the year by schools and various other educational entities in not only Carroll County but Henry, Owen and Trimble as well. Steve Miracle, a social studies instructor at the Tri-County Education Center in Carrol-lton, is assisting Cox in staging the event.
“A lot of people in this area have Native American bloodlines but don’t really have an idea of the history,” said Miracle. “We’re trying to keep something alive. If the history is not presented, it will be lost.”
Miracle said many native languages have already been lost because of Indian intermarriage with other cultures. Miracle instrumented the idea of bringing the festival to Carrollton after seeing it in Shelbyville, Ky., in September 1999.
Carrollton’s festival will begin at 9 a.m. Friday with activities geared toward schoolchildren. The public opening will be the next morning at 9 a.m. Throughout the course of the day, spectators will be able to experience what is called “The Grand Entry,” where all the tribes enter in a ceremonial formation.
Other rites and ceremonies that will take place at Shadow of Buffalo will be in the form of dance and storytelling. Hawk Laughing, a Mohawk Indian who currently resides in Louisville, participates in many of these dances.
“There are so many different tribes that participate, there are so many different styles,” said Hawk Laughing.
Other aspects of the festival will include storytelling and craft demonstrations, such as beadwork and leatherwork. Cox said that 27 different tribes will be represented at the festival.
The Shadow of Buffalo’s presence in Northern Kentucky is just part of the long Native American history that has been extant in the area. Much time has been spent in the area linking artifacts from the past with Native American lineage.
Four years ago, Carroll County High School social studies teacher Sheree Richter led her class’ participation in two archeological digs in cooperation with Dow Corning and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey and uncovered many artifacts they believed to be from Native American periods of time. The digs took place at two various sites off Hwy. 42.
Verification by research of archaeologists and methods of carbon dating implemented by the University of Kentucky suggested the artifacts’ link to the middle to late Archaic period. This period was divided into three stages of time. Early Archaic ranged from 8,000 B.C. to 6,000 B.C.; Middle from 6,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C.; and Late from 3,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to have hands-on experience in the historical recollection of our county,” said Richter. “If you can uncover your past, it tells something about your future. It tells where we have come as a society.”
“If you understand the history of the land, you understand the resources and their unique value,” said John Romans, an environmental specialist at Dow Corning. Dow Corning officials had been looking to develop the land adjacent to Hwy. 42, but in order to obtain a permit for the land, it had be investigated to ensure that development would not disturb any resources of cultural significance. Romans said Dow Corning saw the experience as two-fold, especially since it was providing students with an educational opportunity to work with archaeologists and their methods. “It appears this was excellent hunting ground,” said Romans of the land.
Indeed, particular artifacts found in the two digs included projectile points, drills, knives, scrapers, spokeshavers, utilized flakes, cores and hammerstones. According to Richter and the results of the study, the land along Hwy. 42 had to be a hunting ground, because the dig did not uncover artifacts, such as pottery or burial ground, that suggested the Indians were stationary.
“Most of the tribes were hunter gatherers. They were not stationary in one place. They came, they hunted and they went on,” Richter said.
Carroll County is not the only area along the Ohio River’s Kentucky shoreline where Native American artifacts have been found. Pieces from beyond the Archaic period have been discovered around the riverbanks of Trimble County. Those who made these discoveries wish to remain anonymous but have compared the objects they have found to information in books. Various archaeologists have also came to study the pieces.
According to these two sources, pieces dating from 10,000 B.C. to 7,000 B.C. are from the Paleolithic Period. Particular pieces found that resemble paleolithic characteristics include lance-shaped stones with two end lobes that point downward and drill-shaped stones that were used to drill holes, as holes made in other stones suggest.
Archaic Period stones tend to be more serrated on the edges with the end lobes pointing more to the sides than downward. The next period, the Woodland, ranged from 1,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D., and had a great deal of wider stones that had more smoothly textured sides. Finally, the Mississippian period, from 1,000 A.D. to 1,600 A.D., contained stones that had mainly distinctive, triangular points.
Pieces found, such as pottery and more advanced tools like grooved axes, can be attributed to the later Woodland and Mississippian periods, in which there was higher Indian activity and settlement in the area.
Gallatin County also bears a long history of Native American activity from artifacts found there. Tom Ellis, a Maines Hardware employee in Warsaw, Ky., has been collecting Native American relics and studying Indian presence in Northern Kentucky for six years.
“The Indians were mostly nomads probably up to 1,000 B.C.,” he said. “Most of their villages were makeshift.”
Ellis cited particular locations in Gallatin County where Native American remains have been found. His findings have included not only arrowheads and tools, but mounds where Dan’s Marina, Paint Lick Baptist Church and Steele’s Bottom now sit.
“These mounds were used for protection as well as burial,” Ellis said.
Ellis has done mostly prehistoric research and spoken to an archaeologist from the University of Louisville. He suspected from his findings that the tribes that migrated along the Ohio River eventually led to the heavy presence of the Shawnee tribe. He found evidence of this tribe’s presence through maps from the 1700s and suggested they evolved into a tribe during the Mississippian period.
He has found stones, axes and arrowheads that he has dated to this period of time, particularly around Steels Bottom. “It was probably one of the largest Shawnee camps,” he said.
Carroll, Trimble and Gallatin counties are just some of the areas in Northern Kentucky with a rich Native American history. The trek to uncover the past is far from over, and developments are constantly occurring. Festivals and artifacts have proven to be a significant key to keeping Kentucky’s Native American Heritage alive.

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