Serpent Mound and big screen with face of Dave "Coach" Daubenmire

Serpent Mound dressed in its Winter Solstice best, pictured with off-the-rails evangelical Dave "Coach" Daubenmire 

A fundamentalist Christian church from Hebron (Ohio) with a history of stirring up trouble and worshiping Trump converged on Serpent Mound over the weekend to protest its annual Winter Solstice celebration, seeking to “pray down” the “demon” pagans who gather at the effigy mound.

Hard to fathom it could get any more embarrassing for the state of Ohio, but the church group ended up confronting several Native Americans in attendance, telling them “this land will be taken in the name of Jesus.”

In a video circulated by the evangelicals, American Indian Movement of Ohio director Phillip Yenyo responded, saying, “This land was already taken a long time ago. You people keep taking it.”

Yenyo tried to block them from getting close to Serpent Mound, but the large church group forced their way to North America’s most recognizable effigy mound where they walked on the mound – a terrible insult to Native Americans, akin to someone stomping on your relatives’ graves.

Serpent Mound was built by Native Americans anywhere from 15,000 to 2,000 years ago say experts who still differ on what culture built it and for what purpose.

The mystery of the place attracts visitors from across the planet, and the United Nations is poised to declare Serpent Mound a World Heritage site.

While Serpent Mound’s property is owned by the Ohio History Connection, the Oklahoma Shawnee claim stewardship over the effigy mound’s heritage because their ancestors, as many seem to have forgotten, lived in the Ohio forests for thousands of years until the Indian Removal Act of the 1830s forced them to walk to Oklahoma in the middle of winter, killing many.

It is unfortunate we have to name the church, but it is Pass the Salt Ministries of Hebron, which is a half-hour directly east of Columbus near Newark, and roughly a two-hour drive to the mound in Adams County in southern Ohio.

You may recall how the church’s infamous pastor, Dave “Coach” Daubenmire wished to sue the NFL for allowing Jennifer Lopez to show too much “crotch” during the Super Bowl halftime show, or how he picketed Targets’ bathrooms. No surprise is how the church is designated a LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

More recently, Trump’s defeat has probably caused much heartache, as Daubenmire lauded the (former) President during a church webcast in September:

“He’s robust. Strong. Lusty. Sinewy. He resembles a man. He’s coarse as opposed to soft or delicate. Bold. Brave.”

What is no laughing matter, however, is the way Daubenmire and his faithful viewed Serpent Mound and its Winter Solstice powwow – a place and party that needed to be invaded.

“They announced their plan online, in advance, with militaristic language and intentional aggression – to meet at Serpent Mound at high noon on the Winter Solstice,” stated Jeffrey Wilson on Facebook, a member of the nonprofit Friends of the Serpent Mound, who witnessed the embarrassing charlatan charade. “They framed the conflict in advance by declaring that the Winter Solstice was Christmas for the demons who gather there, and they were aiming to put a stop to it through their militaristic operation.”  

What is absolutely mind-boggling as how this is far from the first time some nonsensical religious cult has tried to force their beliefs on to Serpent Mound to either disparage it or co-opt it for their own purpose.

About a decade ago a New Age group held an event where they sought to make the Serpent come alive by digging into it and burying crystals, and in 2011 the Shawnee’s laughter reached a crescendo after the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens suggested it was built by little grey men in skin-tight suits.

Wilson stated Daubenmire and his possessed flock had similar intentions.

“They planned to dig into the Serpent Mound’s oval and bury a collection of rocks that they deemed would disrupt the demon energies and aid them to exorcise the demons at the site,” he wrote. “Their leader stated that he wanted Serpent Mound bulldozed and though he recognized that he wouldn’t be allowed to do that on this physical plane, he would alternatively attempt to do that on a spiritual one.”

The caretakers of the mound – the Ohio History Connection and the nonprofit Arc of the Appalachia – are once again coming under criticism for not handling the situation as Native Americans hoped.

The problem has always been because it is public land and its public stewards have no power to say ‘no’ to any religious or New Age group that wishes to “worship” there.

“The Ohio History Connection and the Arc of the Appalachia are to be commended for their attempts at defusing the situation, but honestly, they were unprepared, undermanned, and overwhelmed,” wrote Wilson.  

The Ohio History Connection had said they wouldn’t allow the evangelicals to do anything, an empty promise which was broken in less than two minutes, believes Wilson.

“As the Christian militia group marched past the observation tower, chanting religious praises, several members climbed up onto Serpent Mound with arms raised to the sky, despite the Director of the Arc of the Appalachia standing less than ten feet away,” he stated.

Wilson wrote the evangelicals were “allowed” to practice their religious beliefs directly on top of a site sacred to Native Americans over the protests and prior written objections of Native Americans.

“They may have [allowed it] because they were overwhelmed by the situation, or they may have done it because of their own biases, but for whatever the reasons it was allowed to happen, and one groups’ religious beliefs were given preference over another’s with ancestral heritage ties to the site,” he wrote.

The Ohio History Connection’s CEO Burt Logan was notified, and he arrived at Serpent Mound where he promptly called the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and deputies soon arrived.

Incredibly the only decision to be made was to allow the evangelicals to pray for an hour and then everyone in attendance was forced to leave the park, wrote Wilson.

“I believe the ramifications of this situation will be felt for quite some time as it relates to Serpent Mound. I expect that relations between the owners and managers of the site and the Native American community will be strained to say the least,” wrote Wilson.