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On the dig site near Fort Ouiatenon
A team of Purdue students works to tell more of the story of life along the Wabash River, before, during and after Fort Ouiatenon. Plus, Rolls-Royce gets a tax abatement, not before taking some shots
A couple of notes to get started …
First, thanks to Wabash Riverfest for sponsoring today’s edition. This community festival celebrating the Wabash River would not be possible without amazing community volunteers. Those that volunteer for four hours or more get their choice of a cool, river-friendly prize. There are a variety of activities to help with, from try-a-canoe to the bike rodeo to breaking down the festival. To learn more and sign up to volunteer, click on the link below and scroll through today’s edition.
Second, please welcome the latest addition to the Based in Lafayette reporting crew. Carol Bangert, a former J&C editor and these days editor of Greater Lafayette Magazine, takes lead on today’s edition on archaeology work going on at the Ouiatenon Preserve near Fort Ouiatenon, ahead of a series of TCHA show-and-tell events for the public this week. (Yes, we’re related. And, yes, her check’s in the mail. She knows where to find me if that’s a lie.)
Here goes …
ON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE AT OUIATENON PRESERVE
By Carol Bangert / For Based in Lafayette
More than two centuries after its occupation, Fort Ouiatenon and the land surrounding it along the Wabash River continue to tell a story through the artifacts left behind and remind us that human activity was going on long before and after the fort was in use.
The fort’s block house structure is well known locally as the site of the annual Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, a fall recreation of 18th century life along the Wabash, but the original fort is located west of the park in the Ouiatenon Preserve, which covers nearly 200 acres.
In May and early June, 14 students gathered at the Ouiatenon Preserve as part of Field Methods in Archaeology, a Purdue University Maymester course. The hands-on course was co-directed by H. Kory Cooper, department of anthropology at Purdue, and Michael Strezewski of the University of Southern Indiana. The goal of this field school, Cooper said, was to examine areas outside the perimeter of the fort structure, which was the focus of work done in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The history of Fort Ouiatenon is also the history of the Native people such as the Miami, Kickapoo and Mascouten who lived near the fort,” Cooper said. “By focusing outside of the fort we are able to provide more information about the lives of Native people during the French occupation but also before and possibly after.”
In the past, Cooper’s students have worked with the Ouiatenon collections from the 1970s, which are maintained by the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. Cooper said TCHA expressed interest in more research at the site and in the Ouiatenon Preserve, which is co-managed by the Roy Whistler Foundation, TCHA and the Archaeological Conservancy. He saw an opportunity to provide a convenient field school in archaeological methods that is close to Purdue.
“Specifically, we have been investigating areas based on previous magnetometry research by Dr. Strezewski. This technique allows you to map subsurface magnetic anomalies,” Cooper said.
Strezewski conducted magnetometry work over several acres around the fort between 2009 and 2016. He said there were a number of anomalies found throughout the Ouiatenon Preserve.
“Prior work was in the fort proper, what the French were doing; and equal part is the Native American presence, which hasn’t received a lot of attention,” he said.
The excavation, by all accounts, has been a success, with artifacts and features revealing activities that likely pre-date Fort Ouiatenon, which was occupied between 1717 and 1791.
“The area of investigation during Weeks 1 and 2 was intended to reveal the cause of a subsurface anomaly that looked like it might be buried walls. That wasn’t what we found,” Cooper said.
“Instead, we found a midden (trash) deposit that based on some of the artifacts found may be around 3,000 to 4,000 years old. This is not a surprise, but it provides details regarding the Indigenous use of this landscape long before Fort Ouiatenon existed.”
Artifacts included a projectile point, mussel shells, animal bones and a bone awl.
The team moved to another location nearby, where students carefully excavated five 2-by-2-meter units by hand; next to each unit were piles of finely sifted soil that revealed artifacts, including charcoal, animal bone fragments, copper, small flints and a silver broach, indicative of the period of occupation.
Cooper and Strezewski said the charcoal feature suggests the wall of a structure, possibly an Indigenous-style dwelling. “We don’t yet know if it was occupied contemporaneously with the fort, or was occupied before or after,” Cooper said.
Dianna Quintero, a recent Purdue graduate with a degree in anthropology, took part in the field school. One takeaway, she said, was that “archaeology is not always glamorous, but it’s always interesting. Small things can be very exciting – like a nail or fire cracked rock.”
Grad student Cassie Apuzzo said, “The field school was an opportunity to learn about Indiana’s multicultural history through excavations and has given me a new perspective, beyond what is taught in the classroom.”
Leslie Conwell, executive director of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association, said the field school was beneficial to all involved and praised the work being done by the students and faculty.
“Many people may not know that only about 15 percent of Ouiatenon has been excavated,” Conwell said. “We appreciate the partnership between Purdue and the University of Southern Indiana on this project. They provide a combined expertise and tremendous learning opportunities for the students and for us. So much information has been gathered and there is so much to learn from what is found.”
Martin and Cooper said ultimately preservation is the end goal.
“The (Ouiatenon) overlook has been established, but plans are for a trail that will allow people to engage more with this place,” Cooper said, “with interpretive signs with information on pre-European contact history, on preservation and restoration. This research will help with interpretation of activities in this area.”
What did they find? Two public events this week give you a peek:
Archaeological Research at the Ouiatenon Preserve 2022, Presentation and Show-and-Tell will be 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 9, at the TCHA History Center, 522 Columbia St., Lafayette
Project Show & Tell will be 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, June 11, at the Ouiatenon Preserve Overlook, 3655 S. River Road, West Lafayette.
ROLLS-ROYCE GETS ITS TAX ABATEMENT, BUT ONLY AFTER COUNCIL MEMBER SANDERS GETS IN MORE SHOTS
By Dave Bangert / Based in Lafayette
West Lafayette signed off Tuesday night on tax breaks on $184 million of Rolls-Royce’s $204 million in facilities aimed for Purdue’s Discovery Park District, just west of campus.
But not before David Sanders – a West Lafayette City Council member and Democratic candidate for the Indiana Senate District 23 seat and a past critic of corporate tax breaks – dragged the company and Purdue’s recent emphasis on national defense research and manufacturing around for a while.
Sanders, a month earlier, questioned whether the Indianapolis-based engine maker needed the economic boost of a tax break, accusing the company for past practices along the way, prompting Mayor John Dennis to tell Sanders to stand down: “Enough is enough.”
On Tuesday, during final votes on abatements that would save the company roughly $10.8 million on real estate and personal property taxes over the next five years, Sanders came with different ammunition.
Sanders also called out Purdue’s focus in the Discovery Park District on research into hypersonics technology, aimed at the next generation of weapons; the manufacture of fuselages for jet fighter trainers at Saab; and a recent deal to plug another $75 million from Rolls-Royce into national defense-related research at Purdue over the next 10 years.
“This Discovery Park District, which had a vision of being designed to improve mankind, is being turned into part of the military industrial complex,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that should have given the city pause about giving tax breaks in those situations, saying he doubted the city would encourage a company that made assault rifles to settle in West Lafayette.
Sanders also brought up a 2017 agreement that had Rolls-Royce paying the U.S. $170 million, part of an $800 million global settlement after investigations into what the U.S. Justice Department called “a long-running scheme to bribe government officials in exchange for government contracts.”
Dennis did not intervene this time, though he stared at Sanders throughout.
Council member Gerald Thomas answered this time, after Sanders was told his time was up.
“Rolls-Royce is not on trial here,” Thomas said. “I find it very objectionable that we’re sitting here listening to this tirade that has no relevance to what we’re voting on this evening.”
The council voted 7-2 on the tax abatements, with Sanders and council member James Blanco opposed.
After the vote, George McLaren, a Rolls-Royce spokesman, called the partnership with the city and Purdue a win for all involved. He said the issues Sanders raised about settlements in the corruption investigation were a thing of the past. He anticipated it with a prepared statement he shared with media after the vote:
“Past business practices that were uncovered years ago do not reflect the manner in which Rolls-Royce does business today. We now conduct ourselves in a fundamentally different way. We have zero tolerance of business misconduct of any sort.”
Rolls-Royce, expanding research partnerships with Purdue, plans to add 30 employees in West Lafayette, at average salaries of $90,000. Rolls-Royce also would retain 15 people working in West Lafayette, according to details of the tax abatement proposal.
The company plans to build:
A 60,000-square-foot hybrid electric/controls facility, added to the Purdue Technology Center Aerospace building branded with Roll-Royce’s name between U.S. 231 and Newman Road, will work to accelerate development of hybrid electric technologies.
A 23,500-square-foot altitude testing facility would allow simulation and testing at the altitude of the latest technology aero engines.
A 30,000-square-foot test utility building would feed air into the altitude test facility, as well as to the Hypersonic Ground Test Center. Rolls-Royce is a founding partner of the Hypersonic Ground Test Center, touted by Purdue as a first-of-its-kind facility in the U.S., where a nonprofit consortium of national defense industry firms will have the ability to test in Mach 3.5-5.0 and Mach 4.5-7.5 ranges.
The way the abatement is structured, the city would feel little effect of the tax revenue in those five years. That has to do with a partnership Purdue and West Lafayette struck on a $120 million rebuild of State Street.
It works this way: West Lafayette and Purdue shared the cost of the rebuild of State Street and the ring roads around it. West Lafayette paid off its portion of State Street work with revenue pulled from new development in a tax increment finance district in the Village and Levee area. Purdue planned to pay off its share with a TIF district that draws largely from Discovery Park District development. Purdue has until 2039 to cover that cost. After 2039, tax revenues from Rolls-Royce and the rest of the Discovery Park District are scheduled to go back to the city.
Thanks again to Wabash Riverfest for its help with sponsoring today’s edition. The festival is looking for volunteers to make the July 9 event run at West Lafayette’s Tapawingo Park. To learn more and sign up to volunteer, here’s a link to find out how.
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