East Bend Public Library has acquired many Native American artifacts that were donated to North Carolina Department of Archives and History in 1960 by the late J. Earl Norman. The result is an exhibit spanning 14,000 years of history of Yadkin Valley Native Americans.
According to a history compiled by the East Bend Public Library, Norman searched the river bottoms for Indian relics and began a collection, which he added to over 45 years of collecting.
This collection included several Indian artifacts such as pottery, burial pots, arrowheads and other relics.
In 1960, Norman donated the collection to the state’s department of archives and history where it has been safely kept for over 50 years.
“My involvement as state archaeologist has been as the official keeper of the collection since they were donated to the state of North Carolina some decades ago,” said Stephen R. Claggett, State Archaeologist. “Over 30 years now the Norman collection has been some of the most part of all of the stuff that we have.”
When the library opened its new location in 2011 the staff and volunteers decided that they would like to see at least some of that collection returned to East Bend for students and residents to enjoy and learn from.
“So many people knew that the collection was in Raleigh,” Claggett said. “There was a sincere interest in having things brought back here so that people could enjoy them. It’s the history of this area; it’s not the history of Raleigh so it’s very important that at least some of it come back here.”
Claggett said that most of the artifacts from Norman’s collection were catalogued and extensively safeguarded in their archives in Raleigh. Students and researchers primarily use the archives to study a very specific area in history.
The exhibit features items spanning from 10,000 B.C., what’s known as the paleo period, to 1730 A.D., what’s known as the contact period.
The exhibit shows items used by Native Americans that resided in the Village of Donnaha. The village was formed around 1,000 A.D.
Jim Daniels assisted the library with selecting the items from the state’s collection in order to tell a chronological story to the exhibit’s visitors.
“[The library staff] walked into this not completely knowing what they were getting into,” Daniels said. “They learned, they adapted and they did a superb job. I can’t say enough about how they fell in and supported what the project was and determined to do a first class job out of it.”
Daniels said that it was important that the library’s exhibit not have too many items for visitors to sort through and read about.
“We drew on Steve’s collection to select pieces that told a storyline of basically 14,000 years of habitation here in this part of the Yadkin Valley,” Daniels said.
Daniels said that an important part of school tours of the exhibit will be discussing what students should do if they or someone they know finds an area with an abundance of Indian artifacts.
“We encourage people to tell someone about finding sites so that someone can help them protect it and preserve the artifacts,” Daniels said. “Since we became civilized farmers have turned over the soil and churned sites up and development has caused houses, parking lots and buildings to be built over sites and we’ll never know about them so it’s important that when a site is found it is preserved and protected.”
Daniels and Claggett both said that it’s important to realize that informing the state of an archeological find does not mean that the state will come and take your artifacts.
“It’s always good to know where these sites are, not to take stuff away from people but just to know that it’s there,” Clagget said. “There are hundreds of archaeological sites along the Yadkin River in Yadkin and Forsyth Counties. There are hundreds more that we don’t know about and may never know about if people don’t come forth.
“We use that information not just for research and to satisfy our curiosity but to protect the sites,” Claggett continued. “We use site data maps and GIS and consult with Department of Transportation to help save sites. If we don’t know they’re there then there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Claggett and Daniels said that there are currently no plans to cycle items from Norman’s 4,000 piece collection. They haven’t ruled out the possibility of switching out parts of the exhibit to refresh it once everyone in the county has had a chance to visit it.
“We haven’t really talked about cycling items from the collection through the exhibit but it’s something to keep in mind,” Claggett said. “When everybody in Yadkin County sees there several times they may want to see something different and we can rotate things in and out and refresh it.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.