The Monmouth College artifact collection is filled with items that Native Americans used every day to survive and thrive. The collection is located on the top floor of the Hewes Library in a display case. But the selected few that are on display is only the tip of the iceberg. There are actually about 10,000 different artifacts in the collection, all of which students can use for hands on research. This essay is about the Native American artifact collection and an influential tribe who lived near the ground every Monmouth College student walks on.
Monmouth College’s artifact collection was donated in 2010 by an anonymous donor. The collection includes many different artifacts such as arrowheads, spears, pottery, and many more. According to Dr. Kristian Lorenzo, an archaeology professor at Monmouth College, the oldest piece is believed to be around 13,000-14,000 years old (Lorenzo). This piece is an arrowhead called a “clovis point.” Professor Lorenzo does not like putting a price tag on artifacts but he speculates that the collection is valued at approximately $50,000. Considering this was donated by an anonymous donor, this was certainly an outstanding gift. Dr. Lorenzo reports the donor’s only request was that the artifact collection be used to enhance knowledge and not to just sit in the display case. Monmouth students who are taking archeology or history can study these historical items hands-on by using techniques to catalog the artifacts (Lorenzo).
Although many of these artifacts may be familiar to us such as arrowheads, some are rare. Larry Conrad, who is an archeologist and retired Western Illinois University professor, describes one of the artifacts “ . . . a nutting stone that I have only seen two other times in my half-century of western Illinois archaeology” (McNamara, 2). Dr. Lorenzo states that there is no way to actually confirm where any of these artifacts actually came from. But as Lorenzo and the Monmouth students look through every piece, they can slowly start to narrow it down to possible tribes the artifacts belonged to.
An influential tribe near Monmouth College that easily could have used these artifacts was the Peorias. They were based out of Peoria, Illinois just about fifty miles away from Monmouth. The Peorias were one of the first tribes to help the European pilgrims with scouting and hunting in the Midwest (‘Peoria”). For doing this, the Americans promised them safety as long as the Peorias kept helping them (“Peoria”). This divided the tribes into two different categories, nativists and pragmatists (Wagner, 23). The nativist wanted to preserve the traditions the Native Americans had been using for centuries while the pragmatists would use the Euro-American tools, clothes, and beliefs to maintain survival (Wagner, 23).
Many nativist tribes would do anything to keep their way of life, even if it involved war and death. The Peorias, however, were pragmatist, and tried to work with the Europeans. In the end, this strategy did not work. After many treaties, the Illinois tribes eventually began to be pushed out completely. Europeans first forced tribes to the west side of the Mississippi river, then into Missouri and Kansas, and finally into Oklahoma (‘Peoria”). By this time, the Peorias were not much of a tribe anymore. They were down to about 163 adults and children (“Peoria”).
In conclusion, the fact that we have some of this history being preserved in Monmouth College is truly remarkable. This Native American artifact collection can increase our understanding of tribes such as the Peorias and many more in this region. Students and visitors should take advantage of this unique collection that continuously enhances the student's knowledge every day in the classrooms here at Monmouth College.