Preserving Our Past

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Interpretive Center Proposed For Earth Lodge

By Joe Foreman, Editor

It’s a project that’s been talked about off and on for two decades in Glenwood.


An interpretive center that would compliment the Glenwood American Indian Earth lodge and serve as a tourist attraction for visitors interested in learning about the unique archeological history of the Loess Hills and the ancestral Plains Indians who once inhabited the region.

“The long-term goal is to establish an interpretive center where people can learn about the Glenwood Culture,” Mills County Conservation Board member Wayne Phipps said during a recent interview.

Phipps, a Glenwood resident, is among a group of local volunteers, archeologists and historians working to promote and preserve the history associated with the Late Prehistoric period earth lodges (and the people that built them) that once canvassed the landscape of the Loess Hills in Mills County and western Iowa.

Later this week, Phipps will be among approximately three dozen people taking part in an overnight bus trip to South Dakota for a visit to the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. The village features a variety of hands-on displays and activities designed to educate visitors about the native people who lived in the region 1,000 years ago. The bus trip is being coordinated by Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D).

Phipps said he and others taking part in the trip expect to come away from South Dakota with a better idea of what Glenwood should consider for its interpretive center.

Besides coordinating the bus trip, Golden Hills RC&D has also been doing much of the legwork in getting All-American Road status for the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in western Iowa and working with State Sen. Hubert Houser and other members of the Iowa Legislature in getting “preserve status” granted for over 900 acres of land on the campus of the Glenwood Resource Center. The area includes state-owned land on both the north and south sides of U.S. Highway 34.

“The Glenwood Resource Center has the richest concentration of archeological resources in the state as told to me by the state archeologist and the state historical society,” Golden Hills RC&D Coordinator Shirley Frederiksen stated at a recent meeting in Glenwood. “It (GRC) has not had a systematic survey. Can you imagine how much there would be if it had a systematic survey? That’s why we’re trying to get that protected in a preserve status.”

Getting an All-American Road declaration for the Loess Hills Scenic Byway is important, Frederiksen said, because it’s a step toward getting a designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

As pieces of the puzzle fall into place, Phipps believes the possibilities are endless for what the Glenwood community can do to promote and preserve its unique history.

“We have an opportunity to do something that few communities can because of all the archeological significance of the region,” Phipps said. “This all puts Glenwood in the position of having something special.”

In addition to economic and educational benefits an interpretive center could provide, it’s believed that development of the facility would allow for many of the American Indian artifacts uncovered in Mills County but currently housed in Iowa City to be returned to Glenwood on a long-term loan basis.