A group of students from the Nebraska Indian Community College were in Glenwood last week to tour the Mills County Historical Museum and to get an up-close and personal look at the Native American Earth Lodge.
Professor Wynema Morris and her Omaha Tribal History class students visited the museum as a fact-finding mission. Morris and her class hope to build an earth lodge of their own this summer.
“We wanted to touch base with our past and since we plan on building one (earth lodge) we thought we better go see one,” she said. “Since we are going to build this, we wanted to see how it should be done right.”
The current Glenwood earth lodge was constructed in 2006, with the help of volunteers, in the Great Plains Native American tradition. The intent of the earth lodge was to tie together the artifacts at the museum and the dozens of earth lodges excavated in Mills County since the 1920s.
The Omaha tribe at one time occupied a quarter of Iowa, including most of western Iowa, Morris said, prior to the Treaty of 1815. While Morris is aware that Glenwood’s earth lodge is more representative of the types of housing utilized by the Wichita, Pottawattamie, Pawnee and Arikara, the Omaha were known to drive out tribes and assume their earth lodges as they did in Iowa.
“We had talked about earth lodges in prior classes and it didn’t get a great response,” she said. “So I decided the next class, we were going to find one and go see it. This started me researching how we could build our own Omaha earth lodge.”
Morris was put in touch with the Mills Count Museum through the Iowa Office of the State Archeologist.
Last week’s visit included a trip to the 907-acre, Glenwood Arch-eological State Preserve south of Glenwood. On that site, there are more than 100 recorded archeological sites ranging from 10,000 years to the early European settlements beginning about 150 years ago. The Omaha tribe and the Macy, Neb.-based community college will likely get started on their own earth lodge this summer, said Morris. The plan is to gather community support, both financial and volunteer, to build the structure this summer utilizing modern tools. The earth lodge, which will be on ground already designated for a permanent spot on the NICC campus, would serve as a teaching tool and a reminder to the community of their long history.
“History books teach us that we were savage and uncivilized and somehow like children. That’s the first reading we get from President (Thomas) Jefferson in his letters to the tribes, he says ‘Children,’” said Morris. “And these were not children. These were ancient societies that were very capable, very technologically-advanced for their time because they lived in the environment and lived with the natural world very compatibly. You can’t translate that as backwards or uncivilized. I want to show these students this touches their history.”