I am very pleased to report that the Adena Pipe has become Ohio's State Artifact

The original bill (House Bill 501) was supported by the Ohio Archaeological Council, but I have had one or two colleagues suggest that legislation such as this, which simply names another "Ohio thing" as an honorific gesture is frivolous at best and, at worst, a distraction from more important legislative initiatives.

I disagree, and I think you will too after reading the following article by Tracy Kessler and Charlotte Stiverson, the two Columbus School for Girls teachers who worked with their students to make this happen. When you consider all the objects that could be our State Artifact, I think it's remarkable and heartening that the Ohio legislature was persuaded to confer that honor on this small masterpiece carved by a Native American artisan more than 2,000 years ago.

Consider that for at least a few afternoons of testimony and lobbying sessions over the past two years, Ohio's State Representatives and Senators turned their attention to Ohio's ancient Native American heritage and eventually voted unanimously to make the Adena Pipe a symbol of our State. Think for a moment about what that means. At a time when our government is bitterly divided along ideological fault lines and Republicans and Democrats can't seem to agree on anything, both the Ohio House and Senate voted unanimously to designate as our State Artifact an ancient relic of Ohio's indigenous people. Mark Twain once remarked upon the discovery of some ancient remains and concluded that "as long as those parties can't vote anymore, the matter can be of no great public interest." Mark Twain wasn't wrong about much, but thanks to the persistent efforts of Tracy, Charlotte, and their students, the Ohio legislature and Governor Kasich have demonstrated that a 2,000-year-old artifact can be a matter of considerable public interest.

I don't think there's anything at all frivolous about such an outcome.




Columbus School for Girls – Fourth Grade Teachers - Tracy Kessler & Charlotte Stiverson

Over three years ago while studying Ohio’s prehistory and government in fourth grade, the Class of 2018 from Columbus School for Girls took on the project to create an official Ohio state artifact, similar to the idea of having a state tree, a state insect, and a state flower.  Each of these official state objects was chosen because it had an important connection to Ohio’s history and natural resources. 

During fourth grade at Columbus School for Girls, the students travel throughout the state on field trips to learn more about Ohio’s history and government.  On a field trip to the Statehouse in the fall of 2009, while observing the legislative process, a connection was made between Ohio’s prehistory and state government. Our fourth grade students felt it was important to honor a culture that is often forgotten but so important to the Ohio that we have come to know today. Soon, an idea was born. What if Ohio had a strong historic symbol to represent our prehistoric people? This would make Ohio part of an exclusive group of only three U.S. states that would have an official state artifact. The girls felt that having a state artifact would encourage others to learn more about Ohio’s history, especially the prehistory of our state, and give a voice to the indigenous people of Ohio who no longer can speak for themselves.  This artifact is meant to honor our earliest Ohioans and inspire contemporary generations to learn more about the early history of our state.

As we searched for the artifact, the girls met with, interviewed, and wrote to different archaeologists across the state, including Kathy Brady at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, N’omi Greber of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Jarrod Burks at Ohio Valley Archaeology, and Brad Lepper with the Ohio Historical Society. The students also took field trips to various prehistoric sites and museums in order to have the opportunity to view the artifacts in real life, not just from photographs and books.  During this process many artifacts were considered, such as animal effigy pipes, the Shaman of Newark, the Hopewell Mica Hand, and the Eagle’s Claw.  After careful discussion and consideration, the girls began to realize that there was one artifact that stood out and represented Ohioans best, and that was the Adena Pipe.

Students describe the Adena Pipe as 100% Ohio.  It shows a full human body with decorative clothing and suggests what the prehistoric people might have looked like and how they dressed.  To date, this is the only full standing body, human effigy pipe found in Ohio. It was made from Ohio pipestone, which is found in Portsmouth near the Scioto River, and was discovered on the property of Thomas Worthington, Ohio’s sixth governor and the man considered the “Father of Ohio’s Statehood.”  Legend has it that this property was the setting used to create the Great Seal of Ohio with its view of the Scioto River.  Today, this pipe can be viewed at the Ohio Historical Society, a centrally located public museum in Columbus, Ohio. The girls felt it was imperative to have our state artifact at a venue where it easily could be viewed by all.

Once the artifact was determined, we began the process of working with our supporting representatives, Representatives Garland and Miller.  The girls were able to begin the process of supporting the bill by writing letters to representatives and to Native American tribes for their consent on this project.  Unfortunately when this idea was initially presented, it was an economically challenging year for the United States, and Ohio lawmakers were focused on budget issues, so it was placed on the backburner.  However, in 2011, the current fifth graders reintroduced this idea when they entered fourth grade.

In 2011 when Representative Carney came to school to speak to the girls, students asked if he would sponsor this bill on their behalf.  He agreed to reintroduce the idea.  He found another representative from a local district who would create a bipartisan team of sponsors.  Representatives Carney and Duffey introduced House Bill 501 in the spring of 2012.  In both the spring and fall, students from two more classes of fourth graders wrote letters to representatives and Governor Kasich, and they testified before House committees and watched legislative votes on this bill.  At the end of November this bill passed in the House, but with the lame duck session, the bill died again.  Despite fervent lobbying by students to senators, the bill would not make it to law that year due to time constraints. 

Our disappointment with the death of House Bill 501 was replaced with determination. That left five months for us to see it through to completion.  Thanks to the support of Representatives Carney and Duffey and to Senators LaRose and Bacon, who agreed to work on this bill from the Senate position, the bill, now Senate Bill 33, met with quick success, especially since it was presented to both houses of the Ohio General Assembly simultaneously.  A parent offered support by providing lobbyists to help.  These lobbyists organized and streamlined the process by helping with the scheduling, informing the teachers of dates, setting up meetings for the teachers with the committee chairs, and keeping the politicians aware of the bill.  Throughout this whole process, Brad Lepper continually helped us by answering questions and proofing testimony.  Maintaining accuracy to historical information and facts was another important step for the students to learn.

After well more than three years of perseverance, three classes of students witnessed Governor Kasich sign the bill on May 16, 2013, making the Adena Pipe Ohio’s official state artifact.  Cheers of delight spread among 110 girls and their two teachers. The girls learned that they have a voice and can make an impact on governmental decisions and that persistence and determination can pay off.

This project was more than just an exciting example of project-based learning. It served as a successful quest to bring public awareness to something of tremendous importance to our history as human beings. Through this process, we witnessed bipartisan agreement among legislators, a strong sense of community among students, parents, and teachers at CSG, the support from organizations such as the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Archaeological Council, and a passion among children for lifelong learning.  We hope that this project has inspired some of our young female students to someday become legislators, archaeologists, or lobbyists.  Through this experience, they have learned that, much like the Adena people, their voice can be heard whether they are a child or a long lost prehistoric culture.

So, is this pipe just another frivolous state symbol? We don’t think so. For a moment, imagine limiting our state to only three official symbols. Now having the Adena Pipe as our newest one, which three would you choose? Which three would be most significant to our state? The tomato? The cardinal? The carnation? The black racer snake? We believe that most Ohioans would include the Adena Pipe on that short list for the simple reason that it encompasses so many aspects of our state: prehistoric culture, early legislators, the journey toward statehood, native Ohio art and media, the Great Seal, the Scioto River, and most importantly, a three-dimensional snapshot of the face of one of the first Ohioans. These were people we will never know, nor ones who could leave us a slew of photos or journals to tell us who they were. The Adena Pipe is a mirror of our human selves and serves as a visual narrative of ancient humans who lived off of the very same land that we do now. Simply put, there will never be anything trivial about that. We think the Adena, or whatever name they may have given themselves, would appreciate knowing that 2,000 years later, modern Ohioans are still thinking about them and recognizing their contributions to Ohio. Their time on earth has ended, but the greatest respect we could give any previous generation is to publicly honor their influential time on earth.


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