Park to get new Native American history programs

Lafayette, Indiana (AP) November 2011

An Indiana park’s Native American History will get new emphasis next year under plans being developed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Prophetstown State Park, which opened in Lafayette in 2004, is named for a village that formed the base for resistance to Gen. William H. Harrison’s forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe.

The park has yielded evidence of native inhabitation from as early as 10,500 B.C., as well as a Native American settlement called Kithtippecanoe that preceded Prophetstown, said Colby Bartlett, board president of the Tippecanoe County Historical Society. Members of more than a dozen Native American groups inhabited Prophetstown, which is named for The Prophet, the charismatic brother of the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh.

But that history has been an afterthought in much of the park’s programming, the Journal & Courier reported ( ).  Three log structures in the park that represent a “Woodland Indian Village” get only occasional use. Historic Prophetstown brings in two interpreters once a month to present a program on Native American agriculture and customs, according to Dris Abraham, the group’s chief operating officer.

Original plans for Prophetstown State Park included a Native American museum and cultural center, but those never materialized.

Bartlett said the site’s Native American history needs more attention.

“It’s something that deserves more development than it’s had,” he said.

Dan Bortner, director of DNR State Parks & Reservoirs, said the DNR plans to seek input from tribal representatives, educators and other experts as it develops its programs.

“We envision interpretation using a mixture of media, with the possibilities ranging from live programming by qualified Native Americans who are sharing their own stories and culture to a trail with signage that provides ongoing messages when no paid or volunteer staff is available,” said Ginger Murphy, assistant director for stewardship with DNR State Parks & Reservoirs.

Bartlett hopes the DNR’s long-term plans provide a place where all of the area’s Native American heritage can be told.

“There needs to be a museum,” Bartlett said.