Chamber speaker describes pre-Columbus Native societies

Donald Blakeslee described Native American societies around the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the ?New World.?Donald Blakeslee, an archaeological anthropologist at Wichita State University, spoke to more than 125 people at the annual Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce dinner and meeting Jan. 25.

A specialist in archaeology of the Great Plains, Blakeslee said his most recent research involved Kansas sometime in the 1400s up until about the 1700s.

During his presentation, Blakeslee spoke about 1491 and Charles McGann, a journalist, who wrote about what Native American societies were like the year before Columbus came.

?All the new information coming to light were spectacular societies in the high Indies and Amazon Basin, all except the Great Plains,? he said.

This area was remote and sparsely settled, he said, which made it difficult for archeologists to talk about it with each other.

?We were used to thinking of small scale villages rather than the kind of settlement I will tell about,? he said.

The majority of Blakeslee?s presentation centered around the Onate Expedition in 1601.

In that year, he said, the Onate undertook a large expedition east to the Great Plains region of central North America.

?I have had a long time interest in the archeology of that time period, but I had to wait while other colleagues worked on it first.?

Blakeslee said he was researching something else and ran across new translations and new transcriptions of the old Spanish documents related to the Onate Expedition.

?If you haven?t encountered one of those old documents, you don?t know how hard it is to deal with them,? he said. ?They wrote in old Spanish script, and a lot of the letters are unrecognizable.?

Blakeslee said the writing didn?t have spaces between words so a string of cryptic letters and pieces were left out.

?Some scholars at the University of California-Berkeley got interested in these documents and retranscribed and retranslated them,? he said. ?They did a fantastic job and when I started reading this stuff, all of a sudden it was a clear record of that expedition.?

He said for many years his interest has been in the archeology of that time period, but like many scholars, he had to wait for answers to the Wichita tribe living in Kansas between the 1400s and up until the 1700s.

?It may be the best archeological stuff that exists in the state,? he said.

Other highlights

Other highlights at the dinner included the introduction of the new president, David Vogel, with Cynthia Flaming stepping down, but staying on the board.

The other directors are Jeanne Groves, vice president; Marion Regier, treasurer; Angie Becker, Court??ney Boehm, Dale Frantz, Jared Jost, Marie Kessler, Rob Scott and Elizabeth Wine.

Board members retiring are Bonnie Funk, Derek Hamm and Dick Tippin.

Listed as accomplishments in 2015, the Chamber highlighted the joint dinner with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, ribbon-cuttings for new businesses, legislative coffees, distributing flash drives to Tabor College and Hillsboro High School graduates and holding the weekly farmers market.

Other achievements were the Arts & Crafts food booth, Trick-or-Treat Main Street, monthly membership meetings and referring 55 potential customers to Chamber members.

Promotions Committee accomplishments were Step Into Summer Tea, free hot-dog lunch, community block party, Down Home Christmas concert and Down Home Christmas promotion.

A silent auction at the dinner generated funds for Chamber projects.

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