The Grave Creek Indian burial mound, at 70 feet high, dominates the skyline of Moundsville, WV. At the visitor center where I did my talk, there was a great deal of archaeological information, including about the human remains and artifacts that were found in and around the mound.
I knew that Lenape, Erie, Shawnee, Munsee, Susquehannock, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Yuchi, Tutelo/Saponi, Illini, Miami, Kickapoo, Wyndot, Wea, Eel River, and Seneca people lived In this area, but there was little about living tribes or their conflicts with European colonizers.
In textual exhibits, the fate of Native Americans was written in the passive voice or in a language of doubt: “The villages had been abandoned.“ “Many archaeologist believe…“ “By the 1700s, no large Native American settlements existed in West Virginia,” a variation on the “virgin lands” myth.
I found nothing about the Indian Removal Act of 1830, nothing about what is termed “the other Trail of Tears,” the removal of Ohio River Indian tribes, nor anything that mentioned the fate of tribal groups who lived in the area.
This erasure of “controversial” history that white audiences may find uncomfortable makes it easier to forget that we live on unceded land stolen from its ancestral people, that these events were only 7 generations ago, and view native people as a historical curiosity rather than a living people with contemporary needs and desires that live and thrive among us.