Sunday, November 24, 2019

An Indian village was discovered in 1993 buried under the Sanctuary Golf Course in New Lenox, Illinois.

Indians lived in the area as early as 10,000 years ago. Over time, the cultures changed from Early Archaic (9000 to 6000 BC.) to the Mississippian Period (1000 to 1600 AD.) The native populations lived along Hickory Creek in longhouses constructed of tree limbs and wattle. Tallgrass prairies and clusters of hickory, birch, oak, and maple trees were left relatively undisturbed by these tribes despite the evidence that they hunted, trapped, and fished and planted small amounts of corn and used indigenous clay to make pots and reeds to make baskets.

The settlers who arrived in the 1830s found friendly natives of the Potawatomi tribe. Their Chief Shabbona often visited Gougar Crossing, preferring to sleep on the floor while his wife slept in the bed. At Gougar Crossing, an Indian burial site was marked by the traditional pole with a white feather attached. After the Black Hawk War in 1832, the Indians from the area were forced to move to the west of the Mississippi River.

The word "Mississippi" comes from the Ojibwe Indian Tribe (Algonquian language family) word "Messipi" or "misi-ziibi," which means "Great River" or "Gathering of Waters." French explorers, hearing the Ojibwe word for the river, recorded it in their own language with a similar pronunciation. The Potawatomi (Algonquian language family) pronounced "Mississippi" as the French said it, "Sinnissippi," which was given the meaning "Rocky Waters."

The discovery of three Indian skeletons during an archaeological dig in New Lenox, Illinois, in 1993 gave birth to the Midwest SOARRING (Save Our Ancestors' Remains and Resources Indigenous Network Group) Foundation.
For the past 26 years, its mission has not only been the repatriation of native remains, but the protection of "sacred" sites and public education of their culture and issues, said president Joseph Standing Bear Schranz.
Joseph Standing Bear Schranz
The human remains and artifacts were carbon-dated from the Late Woodland (400-1000 AD.), the Mississippian (1000-1600 AD.), and the Proto-Historic (1600-1673 AD.) periods. The bodies, believed to be that of a 50 to 70-year-old woman, an 18 to 22-year-old woman, and a five-year-old child, from the 1600s, were found during a required dig before the construction of the Sanctuary Golf Course, owned by the New Lenox Community Park District Course at 485 North Marley Road. Buried with them were a black bear skull and the antlers of four deer.

For a year after the bodies were found, Midwest SOARRING conducted an honor guard at the site and ensured the bodies were repatriated by the Miami tribe in Oklahoma. Archaeologists believed there may have been more bodies, but Schranz considered this a sacred site and wanted the bodies left undisturbed so they could continue their journey.
The Sanctuary Golf Course archaeological dig sites.
As researchers tested and excavated 20% of the 235 acres at the golf course, they also uncovered three complete structures: a 46 by 18-foot "longhouse," a 16 by 23-foot house, and a large enclosure measuring 78 by 56 feet that sits beneath the parking lot could have been a ceremonial center. According to historical documentation, researchers also unearthed several incomplete structures, an extensive array of hearths, storage, trash pits, and post holes.
A visual aid: Longhouse

The pits and hearths contained hundreds of European traded goods, such as pieces of a brass kettle, brass ornaments, an iron tomahawk, and glass beads, as well as pieces of stone, ceramic, and bone artifacts, tools, plant, and animal remains.

The structures have been covered up and reburied, while the artifacts are stored at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

The Native American Cultural Center is at 133 West 13th Street and State Street, downtown Lockport, Illinois. It is located in the old historic train station. Schranz said he would like to make room at the cultural center to display these artifacts if the state museum would allow that. "It all belongs to the people of Will County," he said.
The Lockport Station was originally built in 1863 by the Chicago and Alton Railroad. The tracks run parallel to the Illinois and Michigan Canal and shares the right-of-way with Amtrak's Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains. Today, Metra goes by the station but doesn't stop here.
It is believed that more graves, structures, and artifacts remain intact below the ground, all evidence that several Indian tribes inhabited this land along Hickory Creek from 400 to about 1700 AD.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Thank you for sharing this information with us. I have gone to the golf course for the express purpose of locating a monument which I had read was to be erected shortly after the time of discovery, to honor the Native Americans lying there. Sadly we were unsuccessful at locating it.

  2. I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Standing Bear at a gathering just west of Champaign back in the mid nineties. I am so happy he and Midwest Soarring are still active.


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