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Progress made on Great Council State Park near Xenia

State and local leaders gather at the construction site of the future Great Council State Park Interpretive Center in Xenia
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
State and local leaders gather at the construction site of the future Great Council State Park Interpretive Center in Xenia

It was announced that Great Council state park's interpretive center's final exterior steel beam was installed by state officials on Tuesday, bringing the park one step closer to welcoming its first guests. This means that walls will soon be put up and flooring laid down by construction crews in preparation for an anticipated Fall 2023 opening date.

When the center is completed, it will be two stories tall with a design that's both modern and based on the late 18th century gabled longhouses used by Ohio tribes like the Shawnee. Old Town, one of the largest-known 18th century Shawnee settlements in Ohio, is located near the site of Great Council.

The three levels of exhibits will look at the history of the Shawnee, their ancestors and the settlers who interacted with the tribe in the 18th century before their forced removal. Exhibits will also inform people about, and highlight the accomplishments of, the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes that exist today (Absentee Shawnee Tribes of Indians of Oklahoma) (Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma) (Shawnee Tribe).

Talon Silverhorn, a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, is Cultural Programs Manager with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources–he oversees American Indian historical content and interpretation in Ohio’s 75 (soon to be 76) state parks.

RELATED: Ohio's 76th state park signals more collaboration with Shawnee tribe

"It'll be the first and only one of its kind in Ohio in the state park system that talks about tribal history and has this close of a partnership with the tribal communities,” Silverhorn said.

No federally recognized tribes exist in Ohio today but Silverhorn said he hopes the new park and interpretive center will help citizens of historic tribes reconnect with their ancestral homelands.

"It has so much of our tribal voice involved and it's going to be a place that I feel is going to attract tribal people and tribal citizens to see what this looks like in practice,” he said.

Silverhorn said he also thinks the park and its future programming will be valuable for residents of Ohio.

“We're going to be bringing these two communities closer together and mending some of the misrepresentations on either side of this equation that have kept our communities apart,” he said.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.
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