Green ground and dusky sky with huge red moon and a design on the ground

Farmer-tanned golfers smoking cigars and swigging beer are gleefully swatting their ball in and around the Octagon Earthworks, built 2,000 years ago by Native Americans in what is now Newark.

The Octagon is arguably a massive lunar temple considering it tracks the moon’s major cycle of 18.6 years. Some experts believe it is twice as precise as Stonehenge and equally impressive as the Great Pyramid. Nevertheless, the Octagon has been besieged by a private golf course for over 100 years.

The Free Press and others have witnessed golfers tee off on the Octagon’s mounds instead of designated tees. The golfers also drive their carts on the mounds themselves. Such blasphemy would inspire many Native Americans to call on their moon goddess Hanwi to smoke them into oblivion.

However, ending golf at the Octagon could soon be a reality, where it will be open to the public and restored to its prehistoric glory as a ceremonial pilgrimage site built by the Hopewell culture (100 BC to 500 AD).

As fans of the Octagon and other Ohio Earthworks know, for the previous two decades Ohio-based archeologists, anthropologists, historians and Native Americans have been working for these earthworks to be designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a World Heritage Site.

If approved, it will be the state’s first World Heritage designation and called the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks. The Octagon is the centerpiece of the largest complex of geometric earthworks in the entire world.

“No other prehistoric structure has the same combination of monumental skill and geometrical precision that the Newark Octagon has,” says Ray Hively, the now-retired Earlham College professor who in 1980s discovered the Octagon tracks the moon’s 18.6 year major cycle. “The Hopewell were not only advanced in astronomy and understanding the moon but also certain aspects of geometry. They could build circles and squares that had the same area. There’s no evidence to this point that any other prehistoric culture could do this.”

But the US Department of Interior, which facilitates any World Heritage application from the US, has made it clear if the Octagon remains a golf course, the Moundbuilders Country Club to be exact, it will not submit the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks application to UNESCO.

Realizing this, the Ohio History Connection filed an eminent domain civil suit late last year to gain full control of the property’s lease with a significant buy out. The History Connection, the state’s preeminent preservationist, has shared the Octagon with Moundbuilders CC since 1910, but many believe its membership has severely limited public access and done so with a callous attitude.

Following testimony earlier this year, a judge’s ruling returning the Octagon to The History Connection is due any day now.

We at the Free Press believe winning back the Octagon followed by a World Heritage designation would be a surreal but much needed twist of history:

Two centuries ago descendants of the Hopewell culture were expelled from Ohio to Oklahoma by the US government due to increasing numbers of white settlers. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Native Americans, with help from preservationists, remove the settlers’ opulent descendants from Moundbuilders CC. Tourists from around the world then flock to the Octagon, giving Newark, and Columbus for that matter, an unexpected economic boost.

But more importantly the state of Ohio can amend a historical wound that has never fully healed. By returning the Octagon to the descendants of those who were forced to abandon it.

“I understand they (Moundbuilders CC) have been there many years and have an emotional attachment, but I can’t help but wonder why they don’t realize there are attachments that precede theirs,” says Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma Chief Glenna J. Wallace.

Chief Wallace was scheduled to testify in the The History Connection’s civil suit, but the initial judge recused himself the day before her flight and decided not to make the trip. She’s toured the Ohio earthworks several times before and is a descendent of those Eastern Shawnee who were forced to walk from Ohio to Oklahoma following the Indian Relocation Act of 1830.

“We have had groups associated with World Heritage from all over the world come to the Octagon and they have commented they just can’t believe this is happening in the United States. That people would be resisting to recognize the history, that these mounds were built 2,000 years ago, and choosing to dishonor these people and those mounds,” she says.

Chief Wallace says it’s “extremely important” to return the Octagon to Native Americans because it will help change the prejudices and stereotypes this nation has wrought against her people, her family, her heritage.

“Pick up textbooks today and you still rarely see recognition to any contributions to Native Americans. Pick up textbooks today and they are still described as savages,” she says. “To me those who built the Octagon had to be extremely bright, extremely intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, and it’s time they were given their due recognition.

“I just so long for people to be able to go there freely anytime they want. To see that site. To commune with that site. To recognize the magnificence of that site. The sooner the better.”