White River seen from Oliver's Woods

The Late Woodland People of Oliver’s Woods

Part 2 of a series for Native American Heritage Month

Archeological records reveal the presence of very early residents on what is now Oliver’s Woods. Thanks to the Indiana Historical Society, we know that around 1060 AD, Late Woodland people lived at the site. (“Woodland” is the name archeologists use to classify a period of North American pre-Columbian cultures from roughly 1000 BCE to European contact in eastern North America.)

This discovery predates the land trust’s involvement with the property. In 1959, according to the Indiana Historical Society, American Aggregates Corporation was contracted to remove gravel at the site. The site had been on the radar of Indiana archaeologists since the 1930s. So the IHS requested to salvage artifacts before the gravel was mined.

Amazingly, the contractors halted operations and did not resume until 1965, allowing over half a decade for the archeological exploration.

Indiana Historical Society report on the Bowen site

The Bowen site, as it was known then, lay on the north bank of the White River’s west fork. The dig revealed evidence of a settlement about 100 yards away from the river’s edge. Pottery analysis indicated that the site was occupied by people with mixed cultural characteristics of Late Woodland and other late prehistoric peoples. Most likely they were seasonal occupants of the land, feeding themselves by growing maize, fishing, musseling, hunting, and foraging.

While the site was disturbed by 100 years of plowing, the archeologists salvaged tools made of bone, stone, and antler. Artifacts made of mussel shell, burned clay, and copper also provided hints of what life was like here in the 11th century.

Tree species that predominated mirrored those of today’s floodplain forest: silver maple, sycamore, American elm, cottonwood, hackberry, cork elm, box elder, black willow, white ash, and red elm. The understory featured small trees like hawthorn and hop hornbeam, as well as shrubs like elderberry, spicebush, wahoo, and pawpaw.

Animal remains found on the site included mammals one might expect: an abundance of deer and turkey, as well as many raccoons, squirrels, mice, and woodchucks. A small number of box turtles and snapping turtles were present. Intriguingly, 32 dogs were among the remains.

The site also revealed evidence of mammals no longer found in the region—17 elks, six black bears, four gray wolves, and even one mountain lion—and of birds that have gone extinct (three passenger pigeons).

The researchers suspect that the site was the seasonal home for 50 people for three to five years, or perhaps 100 over a generation, around the year 1060 AD.

There was no evidence of house structures, but the dig revealed refuse pits, burned areas, and several burials. In fact, the archeological team discovered and studied nearly 40 human remains.

It can be disturbing to look at the past through the lens of the present, knowing that academic researchers were unearthing and analyzing human bones from the land that is now Oliver’s Woods. This is also part of the history of the property, and Native American Heritage Month prompts us to honor and recognize these early dwellers.

We hope to keep broadening our understanding of the original people whose lives were bound up in these places, and to honor them along the way.

More about the Bowen site can be found here, including a photograph of reconstructed pottery. 

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
White River view in winter

Honoring the Myaamia, the “Downstream People”

Part 1 of a series for Native American Heritage Month

When we talk about CILTI nature preserves, we often focus on very recent history. We note names of individuals or families who had the foresight to work with the conservation community. We are indebted to all those who contributed to the effort to permanently protect these special places.

However, we know that the history of land stretches back so much farther. The tribal nations, people whose lives were inextricably linked to the land, often go unmentioned.

Myaamia were early stewards of much of our service area here in Central Indiana. The anglicized name for this tribe is the Miami Nation.

The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma notes that Myaamia means “the Downstream People,” reflecting the riverine origins of the tribe’s history.

According to Scott Shoemaker, a member of the Miami Tribe, the tribe’s origin story references a confluence along the St. Joseph River. The ancestors emerged from the river and grasped tree limbs to pull themselves out. “We became the Miami people through this transition of lifting ourselves out of the river,” he said during a recent interview.

The exact place is unknown. It may have been the St. Joseph confluence with the Elkhart River or with Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, MI. From there, the people moved down the Wabash River valley and built communities at major confluences from Fort Wayne southwest to Vincennes.

Shoemaker, who is the former curator of Native American art, history, and culture at the Eiteljorg Museum, appeared on a recent White River Alliance podcast. He joined George Ironstrack, citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, who serves as assistant director of education in the Myaamia Center at Miami University.

Ironstrack noted that the Myaamia began to cede their homelands in the 1790s. For the next 50 years, they were forced west of the Mississippi, a removal that fragmented the people. About 150 people were allowed to remain in Indiana while many more were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory (now Kansas). Eventually they were forced to move again, into present-day Oklahoma, while some stayed behind in Kansas.

This forced removal unfolded alongside the altering of land and water, as wetlands across the region were drained, rivers channelized, forests clearcut, and canals dug. Colonization caused irreparable harm both to the native people and to the land they had stewarded since time immemorial.

The Myaamia language, which weaves relationships into place names, emphasizes how crucial water is to the people.

As Ironstrack says, “The flow of water carries living things… We live in a landscape you could call a waterscape, and the rivers are like veins or arteries moving through our homelands and our people.”

Situated as it is along the White River, it’s a safe bet that Oliver’s Woods was home to the Myaamia after the people moved south from Lake Michigan. Historians place this southward movement in the early 1700s.

But because of archeological records, we have documentation of very early residents from hundreds of years before that. In Part 2, we will explore that earlier history.

Further Exploration:

History of the Miami People (Miami Nation of Oklahoma website)

A Myaamia Beginning, by George Ironstrack

Miami Nation of Indiana 

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
Carmel Creek

Visitors to Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve can share photos for timelapse project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Visitors to Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve on the northside of Indianapolis can participate in a citizen science project that will show changes at the preserve over time.

Participants can take a photo of Carmel Creek from the designated spot in the nature preserve and email it to Chronolog, the platform that is creating the timelapse using the submitted photos. View the timelapsed photos here.

Over time, looking at multiple photos taken from the same spot will reveal seasonal changes, as well as changes in water levels and, potentially, wildlife population.

“Changes in the environment are sometimes difficult to see and understand because they happen gradually,” said Cliff Chapman, executive director of the Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc. (CILTI), which owns and manages Oliver’s Woods. “This project helps connect people with the subtle changes.”

Located at 8825 River Road, Oliver’s Woods features 16 acres of woods, 37 acres of prairie-savanna restoration, and a mile of White River frontage. Many volunteers have helped build trails, plant native plants and trees and remove invasive species from the property. This special care is allowing native species like wild ginger, rare butternut trees, waterleaf, wild hyacinth and trillium to flourish. The southern half of the popular Town Run Trail Park is encompassed within this property.

Watch our own Grace van Kan, White River Steward, share more about this project on Fox59!

Jen Schmits Thomas

Media Relations

An award-winning communicator and recognized leader in Central Indiana’s public relations community, Jen helps us tell our story in the media. She is the founder of JTPR, which she and her husband John Thomas own together.
Betley Woods at Glacier's End

Trails coming to Betley Woods at Glacier’s End Nature Preserve in Johnson County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 11, 2022

The Indiana Wildlife Federation (IWF) received $239,500 of Next Level Trails funding to bring a cutting-edge project consisting of new trails and a digital interpretive app to Betley Woods at Glacier’s End Nature Preserve, which is owned by the Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc. (CILTI).
Continue reading

Jen Schmits Thomas

Media Relations

An award-winning communicator and recognized leader in Central Indiana’s public relations community, Jen helps us tell our story in the media. She is the founder of JTPR, which she and her husband John Thomas own together.
Hikers at Fred and Dorothy Meyer Nature Preserve

More Trails to Trek in 2022

It warmed our hearts to see people out enjoying our nature preserves in our inaugural Trek our Trails Challenge last year. This year, there are a few more trails to trek, and the challenge continues! We’ve expanded from five preserves to six, and extended a trail at one of our most beautiful preserves. Continue reading

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
Hooded warbler

Southern Johnson County gets more protected land

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2022

The Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc. (CILTI) has acquired 109 acres of environmentally significant forest land in southern Johnson County, resulting in a total of more than 1,500 acres in that area that is protected forever.

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Jen Schmits Thomas

Media Relations

An award-winning communicator and recognized leader in Central Indiana’s public relations community, Jen helps us tell our story in the media. She is the founder of JTPR, which she and her husband John Thomas own together.
Meltzer Woods NNL designation

Explore National Natural Landmarks during Mental Health Awareness Month

There’s no shortage of crises snagging our attention these days. It seems that wherever we turn, there’s some dire prediction or distressing news story. But in unsettled times, there’s a place to find solace: nature.

Continue reading

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
Indiana bat

Holladay Properties donates more land near AmeriPlex

Indiana bat population could soar on land near Indianapolis International Airport

INDIANAPOLIS (May 3, 2022) – Holladay Properties has donated an additional seven acres within its AmeriPlex complex to the Central Indiana Land Trust Inc. (CILTI). Valued at $570,000, the latest gift means the commercial real estate firm has gifted a total of 57 acres in southwest Marion County to CILTI to enhance and maintain as a nature preserve.

Holladay made its first land gift in the area to CILTI in 2013, allowing the nonprofit land trust to protect and expand habitat for the endangered Indiana bat. Over the years, CILTI and many volunteers have planted trees and removed invasive plants in the partially wooded property to restore it as a nature preserve.

“This latest gift allows us to further preserve an area that serves as the summer home for one of the state’s largest populations of our region’s most endangered species, the Indiana bat,” said CILTI Executive Director Cliff Chapman. “It’s a great example of how protected land in what we call core conservation areas helps to bolster Indiana’s incredible biodiversity.”

Chapman added, “Holladay has a long history of being attentive to environmental impact. For example, AmeriPlex Indianapolis was the first Indiana business park recognized as a certified ‘Wildlife Friendly Habitat’ by the Indiana Wildlife Federation.”

Called the Wallace F. Holladay Preserve at AmeriPlex after the founder of Holladay Properties, the land is open to the public and accessible via Flynn Road.

About Holladay Properties
Holladay is a full service commercial real estate firm. A fully-integrated, full-scale land development, design/build, and property management firm, Holladay has developed over 20 million square feet of commercial space and actively manages over 15.5 million square feet of office, industrial, retail, multi-family, hotel, and healthcare space – and its medical office management portfolio is one of the largest in the country. The firm has more than 250 employees in a variety of specialties working from about 25 offices throughout the eastern half of the U.S.

Jen Schmits Thomas

Media Relations

An award-winning communicator and recognized leader in Central Indiana’s public relations community, Jen helps us tell our story in the media. She is the founder of JTPR, which she and her husband John Thomas own together.
Trillium now flourishes at Meltzer Woods

Meltzer Woods: A Wintercreeper Success Story

In less than ten years, Meltzer Woods‘ wintercreeper problem has come under control.

What is wintercreeper? If you spend any time in a residential area, you will see this evergreen vine in gardens and/or climbing trees. For years, nurseries sold it as a groundcover, like English ivy. Continue reading

Jamison Hutchins

Stewardship Director

Jamison leads our stewardship team in caring for the land that is so important to you. He brings not only a love of nature, but an ability to create meaningful partnerships that advance crucial work.
Scarlet tanager photo by Emily Wood

Hiking Fred and Dorothy Meyer Nature Preserve

Guest post by Emily Wood, executive director of Indiana Wildlife Federation

I was tempted to wholly undersell the Fred and Dorothy Meyer Nature Preserve in this post in order to keep it my little secret. I have been visiting this property regularly since I discovered that it was a quick ten minute drive from my house. Every season here offers something to see, smell or hear—and always packs one heck of a workout with its trail plunging steeply into a forested valley. Continue reading

Emily Wood

Guest Blogger

Emily Wood is a Central Indiana Land Trust member living on the southwest side of Indianapolis. She has a degree in Wildlife Biology from Ball State University and currently serves as the executive director for the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Emily is an avid angler, hiker, photographer and conservation advocate.