Ohio 's First Peoples. By James H. O'Donnell III. ( Athens , Ohio : Ohio University Press, 2004. ix, 176pp Cloth, $17.95, ISBN 0-8214-1525-5.)
Ohio University Press, a noted publisher of works on Ohio and regional history, has recently added James H. O'Donnell's Ohio's First Peoples to their collection, which includes Religion in Ohio, B uckeye Women, and Civil War memoirs by Ohioans. Professor O'Donnell who has written several works on American Indians is uniquely qualified to bring this significant aspect of Ohio 's history to the general public, especially with the continuing celebration of the state's bicentennial.
Although there are no Indian reservations in the Buckeye State in the twenty-first century, the Indians did leave their imprint before their forced departure in 1843. O'Donnell points out not only the remnants of ancient civilizations that inhabited the region like the Hopewell and the Adena, but the numerous Indian place names that dot it. He proves to us that European settlers were not the only ones who would have agreed with the English traveler of 1817 who declared that Ohio was “a country beautiful and fertile . . . affording all that nature decreed for the comfort of man.” For several millennia Ohio has been a magnet for settlers with water, mineral deposits, and fertile land in abundance. In this slim volume of 128 pages of text, O'Donnell tantalizes us with an overview of the rich history of the often forgotten, first peoples of Ohio. This is a project that is not designed for the specialist, but for the general public who want to explore further the achievements of Ohio 's Indians and the disturbing challenges that they faced with the arrival of the Europeans, especially during the eighteenth century.
In following a chronological pattern, O'Donnell begins his study with the Adena and the Hopewell by quoting surveyor Rufus Putnam, one the founders of Marietta, who declared them peoples of “ingenuity, industry, and elegance,” especially after examining their earthworks at the mouth of the Muskingum River. Here the author introduces us to their culture and what can be understood because of what they left behind. He is well acquainted with the archeological literature on these cultures and summarizes it appropriately for the larger audience so as not to lose the interest and excitement of the reader. Those who desire more information have the benefit of an exhaustive endnote format, coupled with an extensive bibliography to guide them. The only topic that he does not introduce in this section relates to the Paleo-Indians who predated these vibrant cultures and used Ohio, such as Noble's Pond in Stark County, as one of their bases for their nomadic life style.
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