Oral History of Forgottonia – The Protests at Dickson Mounds by Ella Bass

ON THIS EPISODE

As part of our Oral History in Forgottonia series, Cuba High School junior Ella Bass hosts this episode about the 1992 Native American protests that took place at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown, Illinois. Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewiston, IL harbors the history of indigenous people who lived in this region as far back as 10,000 years. This group was part of a civilization known as the Mississippian culture and there is still so much that we don’t know about them.

Several years ago, a local doctor named Don Dickson generated renewed interest in this culture when he uncovered the remains of more than 200 indigenous people on his farm just outside of Lewiston. Dickson eventually opened a private museum and charged people to see the remains. This private museum was eventually purchased by the state of IL which continued to allow people to visit the burial site and see the remains for themselves. But in the early 1990s, the question over this practice came to the forefront as several Native Americans made the journey to the western IL museum to protest this practice and call for the remains to be covered and respected.  Eventually, the IL Governor at the time named Jim Edgar, ordered the remains to be covered. The museum remained open to the public and began a new era that would seek to preserve, educate, and honor this culture.

OBJECTIVES

  • Why Native Americans decided to stage a protest at Dickson Mounds
  • How local residents felt about the protest
  • How the skeletal remains are being preserved and honored today

Ella Bass BIO

Ella is a Junior at Cuba High School and the daughter of Angie Thomas and Jeff Bass. Ella is involved with History Club, Dance Force, FCCLA, and volunteers at the YWCA to teach young kids ballet, tap, and jazz dance. Ella’s favorite place to eat is McDonald’s. After high school, Ella would like to go to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to get degrees in botany/plant biology, forestry, and zoology/animal biology. She would then like to become either a marine conservationist or a wildlife conservationist. 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Our ORAL HISTORY of FORGOTTONIA series is part of the NCHE Rural Experience in America grant in partnership with the Western IL Museum, and the Western IL University Archives.  In 2021, the National Council for History Education (NCHE) recruited teachers nationwide to participate in free and open professional development that occurred asynchronously and synchronously online, focusing on rural history and historical inquiry using Library of Congress sources. Teachers traveled to Norman, Oklahoma to collaborate with a community partner selected from their hometown to create a public history project.

These community-based, service-learning public history projects enable students to investigate their local and regional histories deeply and to connect their own histories to the larger human experience. A key purpose of this project is to link rural communities and their histories to national narratives and primary source collections, and the targeted focus of this proposal provides an avenue for such purposeful connections.

Our project, The Oral History of Forgottonia, is one of several throughout the country featured by the NCHE. To learn about other projects featured by this grant, check out this list and visit the links at the bottom of this post.

SOURCES

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