By Don Lowe
Chief Glenna J. Wallace was first elected to take on this important leadership role with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in 2006. It’s appropriate she ascended to such a prominent post considering her effort to help promote and preserve Native American history.
“There had never been a female chief in our history,” Chief Wallace notes. “I made the decision to run, was elected and have been re-elected four times, now serving in my 18th year as chief.”
Chief Wallace has been passionate for many decades about helping to protect the past of her people and she says, “Had it not been for all my World Heritage experiences and my research and presentations for the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery, all thanks to Crowder College, I would not be where I am today.
“I also never would have been involved in getting eight ancestral mounds in our homelands of Ohio inscribed as World Heritage sites.”
Most recently, Chief Wallace helped bring attention to Newark Earthwork Mounds in her Ohio homelands and was fortunate to travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last fall when this important land was officially inscribed as a World Heritage site.
“I was privileged to speak on behalf of the United States in accepting this long-sought designation,” Chief Wallace says. “I had worked on this endeavor for 16 years. Some in Ohio had worked on it longer, namely Dick Shields, Marti Chaatsmith, Christine Balengee Morris, Jeff Gill, Brad Leper and Bill Weaver. “The voting on our nomination took less than three minutes. I had two minutes to express our appreciation. We were approved in less than three minutes. The applause was thunderous, and lines of people came to shake our hands and tell us we had submitted the best nomination the 21 countries voting had received in years.” While there are current court battles to remove the golf course that sits on top of the Newark Earthwork Mounds, Chief Wallace knows nothing takes away from this spectacular site, which she describes as “unbelievable! Majestic! There are earthen walls, not the stereotypical cone-shaped mounds. The earthen walls, extending into the distance, are four to 14 feet high. “These are earthen walls built by Native Americans hundreds of years ago with Mother Earth. Native Americans carried baskets full of Mother Earth when they came to this religious, still-intact cultural area that’s now covered with a golf course. At first, all I could see was the beauty, the cultural aspect, the religious meaning.” Chief Wallace adds, “I knew I was looking at a site that equaled or surpassed any World Heritage site I had ever visited. “We want the culture, the aura of the original mound builders, the Native Americans, to be preserved. “We want people to know these mounds are 2,000 years old, and built out of love, and religious/cultural beliefs. And built by bringing one basketful at a time of Mother Earth from all places in the U.S. in a religious pilgrimage.” It’s truly all about keeping a strong connection to the past, the present and the future, and Chief Wallace says, “We want the world to know our ancestors were geniuses, not savages, as they have been stereotypically presented. “We want the world to know that we, their descendants, are still alive, not dead, not a past, but a people with a past.”
See more photos in the print or digital January 2024 issue
Chief Glenna J. Wallace Fast Facts
Age: 85 years old
Widow: Husband passed away 35 years ago. (Married for 33 years.)
Great Grandchildren: 11 with a 12th on the way.
Born and Raised: Eastside Community (Ottawa County, Oklahoma)
School: Attended two-room rural school (Moccasin Bend, District No. 5 and graduated from eighth grade); graduated from Wyandotte High School in 1956.
College: Started at Northeast Oklahoma A&M before transferring to Pittsburg State University
Degree: Earned a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and EDS
Job Career: Started teaching at Crowder College in 1968 and taught there for 38 years before being elected chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in 2006. She is now in her 18th year serving in this role. (At Crowder College, served as instructor, department chair, division chair, director of international travel and interim academic dean.)
History: In the early 1900s, more than 10,000 mounds and 500 earthen enclosures were recorded in Ohio. Today, a majority of those have been destroyed. Every tribe (40-45 total) and their people were removed from Ohio. Today, there are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio. The inscription of the Hopewell Mounds guarantees that these mounds and their cultures will be preserved. There are currently 1,199 World Heritage Sites worldwide, including 25 in the United States with this being the first inscription in Ohio.