Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Field Trip to sites of the Back 40 in Michigan

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Intern
June 21, 2017

On June, 20, I took a trip to the Back 40 Mine sites that are in controversy with Aquila Resources Inc. I accompanied a group with Dr. Overstreet who did the research for the sites. He is a consultant to the Menominee tribe. The trip included seeing a dance ring, mound site and garden beds that are part of the contested area. Aquila is trying to acquire ownership of the land where the sites are located. The garden beds are part of a village that the Menominee inhabited before moving to their current location.

Dr. Overstreet spoke at length about the Backlund Mounds and village area where several burial mounds have been located and mapped. The mounds were excavated by a Dr. Spaulding in the mid-1950s. Another mound group was on Michigan state land. Spaulding was required to submit reports of his findings to the state DNR. Rather than submit reports Spaulding used the Backlund site which was privately owned. More than a dozen individuals were recovered and are currently housed at the Archaeological Museum at the University of Michigan. After 1956 the area became a pine plantation. The site is now owned by Aquila whose current mining project is in dispute. Our group was not allowed access to the area, though in the past groups were able to tour the site.

The Dance Ring is always a spiritual event for me. I spoke of memories as a child being in a dance ring. I spoke of the importance of saving sites for future generations and how important it was to respect Mother Earth. I spoke about respect for ancestors how it was important to Native people that they not be disturbed. Most of all I talked about how important it was to teach our children to honor and respect the earth, to be grateful for the life it provides.

The day was wonderful, sunny and warm. I always enjoy the company of Dr. Overstreet, his knowledge of the sites completed the experience. I especially enjoyed listening to him tell us about the garden beds at our final site. I can almost see people tending the garden and other activities of village life. The day concluded with the trip home and the good feeling of the visit.

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