Chickasaw.tv, a “network focused on emphasizing the culture, legacy and continuing contributions of the Chickasaw people,” has a number of fascinating videos posted to their website. Among them are a series of reflections by LaDonna Brown, Chickasaw Nation Archaeological Specialist, on the monumental earthworks of the Mississippian era. It’s wonderful to hear the perspective of a descendant of the indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands on these wonders of the ancient world. In one video, Ms. Brown observes that these ancient earthworks “are special, sacred places that are determined by the alignment of the stars” and the seasonal cycles. The Mississippian culture developed centuries after Ohio’s Hopewell culture, but there are clear connections between them. The Hopewell earthworks also incorporated astronomical alignments in their architecture and they certainly were special, sacred places. Other videos on the Chickawaw.tv website include Native Storyteller Stephanie Scott sharing some of the traditional stories of the Chickasaw Nation. These stories are especially important, for in another video Ms. Brown says that she finds her connections to the ancient earthworks through these oral stories.
This Hopewellian sculpture of an otter with a fish in its mouth may represent an episode from a story told around Ohio campfires more than two thousand years ago. It was found at the Tremper Mound in Scioto County. OHS: Om1357_1136252_050.tif
Although separated by many generations, some of the themes in the Chickasaw stories may be echoes of stories told by the people archaeologists know as the Hopewell. We can no longer hear those ancient stories, but we can perhaps catch a glimpse of an episode here and there, like single frames from a silent movie, in particular works of Hopewell art. Brad Lepper