As 2012 closes, history enthusiasts look forward to the new year as the 200th anniversary of Ohio's involvement in the War of 1812.
A local man is involved heavily in planning Ohio bicentennial events and educating people about the war -
particularly the part American Indians played.
PHOTOS BY VICKI JOHNSON
Jamie Oxendine takes part in dancing during Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of Four Directions.
Jamie Oxendine of Tiffin is a member of the Ohio War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission representing the Ohio Humanities Council.
"OHC was the first to give a grant to the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission," he said. "I am on the board of trustees for OHC and my background of Native American culture and American history was deemed perfect to represent OHC on the commission."
The bicentennial is only the latest in Oxendine's work of educating people about American Indian culture. He has been and continues to be involved in many other projects.
Although the War of 1812 is not as well known as the Civil War, Oxendine said it was a world war involving the United States, Great Britain, Canada and the many American Indian nations of eastern North America and the entire Great Lakes.
"Native Americans were a very important and most central part of the War of 1812; yet our role is usually overlooked," he said.
From an American standpoint, he said the war established the United States as a world power.
"Yet another defeat to the British Empire by the Americans (only 30-some years after the Revolutionary War) and the defeat of the most powerful British naval fleet was a clear indication to other nations that the United States of America was not one to be taken likely," he said.
The local area played a central role in the war, he said.
Fort Ball, in what is now Tiffin, as well as forts in Old Fort and Fort Seneca were built to provide provisions and security for the army and the army supply route along the Sandusky River.
"The forts were a necessary lifeline of supplies, especially in the thick and dark Great Black Swamp of northwest Ohio," Oxendine said. "One must also remember that, at the time, Seneca County was not Seneca County as we know it today, as it was not fully established as a county until 1820.
"At the time of the War of 1812, both what is now Seneca County and neighboring Sandusky County were very important places of depot forts for the U.S. Army."
From an Indian standpoint, however, he said the outcome of the war was not positive.
"Not good at all. The ultimate loser of the War of 1812 was, of course, the Native American people," Oxendine said. "For many Native Americans in the East, the war was just another continuation of white powers fighting over things that seemed very confusing.
"One must remember that Native Americans had already seen this type of conflict two times already with the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. For the third time, the native people found themselves being caught up in the middle."
Because of changes during those wars and the ensuing settlement by Europeans, American Indian culture also changed, and Oxendine and others have made it a point to educate people about native people.
"I think I was born with the desire (to teach)," Oxendine said. "I have been very fortunate to have been taught who I was and about my Native America culture from the day I was born by many family members and other tribal elders. It only seemed natural that I make educating people about Native America a part of my life."
Anyone who visits the annual living history village in September at Hedges-Boyer Park during Tiffin-Seneca Heritage Festival can't help but hear American Indian drumming. The drum is SouthEastern WaterSpider, led by Oxendine and joined by Jeff Meggitt, Kevin Mercer and Rolf Granlund.
"With the drum being so special in our culture, we usually capitalize the word," Oxendine said. "The drum is often called the heartbeat of the culture. In Native America, it is far more than a part of the arts such as music, song and dance. Among our people, the drum is life and is integral to the arts, music, song, dance, spirit, religion, thought, philosophy and so much more."
Oxendine serves as singing member and spokesman for the group that specializes in songs of American Indian tribes of the Southeast.
The group portrays not only the significance of the drum, but styles of clothing.
"Being historians and purveyors of living history, it is our goal to educate people on the role and life of Native Americans during the time period," Oxendine said. "We do this through our dress and customs of the time period as well as through songs of Native Nations that would have been in the Great Lakes during the War of 1812."
As an enrolled member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina with Lumbee and Creek ancestry, Oxendine portrays several styles of dress. His head gear often is most noticeable. He has several types.
"The two most seen in photos of me with the drum are both Eastern Woodland in style and makeup," he said. "The silver band with feathers is typical of several Southeast Woodland Nations between 1790-1840. The other one that looks like a hat of many feathers with a wampum headband is often called a 'gustoweh' and was typical of the Haudenosaunee people and a few other native nations of the northeast Woodlands."
As a Woodland drum, the group takes part in living history events, pow-wows, ceremonies and gatherings throughout the Eastern United States - Northeast, Southeast and Great Lakes.
SouthEastern WaterSpider is scheduled to take part in the Kalamazoo Living History Show March 16-17 in Kalamazoo, Mich. - the largest pre-1890 show in the Midwest - and Oxendine joined the planning board earlier this month.
"We have been huge fans of the show by attending for many years to buy supplies and other needs as well as fellowship with friends," Oxendine said. "Over the years, we became well acquainted and good friends with (directors) Leslie and Rick Conwell, and they asked us about being a part of the show."
In addition to teaching through the drum, Oxendine educates in other ways.
He has been a speaker and storyteller for more than 30 years, as well as a writer, musician and civil rights activist. He visits schools, colleges and organizations throughout the United States and Canada, speaking about 18th- and 19th-century history, specializing in Eastern Woodland culture.
He often serves as master of ceremonies or arena director for ceremonies and gatherings.
He has a bachelor of science degree from Pembroke State University (The University of North Carolina) and a master's degree from Bowling Green State University.
He has written several published papers and theses on American Indian culture, including works on "Teaching Native American Culture in the K-12 Classroom," "The Thanksgiving Holiday," "Indian Summer" and "The 2nd Amendment."
In September 2004, he was a Lumbee representative and speaker for the First Americans Festival and Native Nations Procession during the grand opening of the National Museum of The American Indian in Washington, D.C.
A native of North Carolina, Oxendine twice has been awarded the North Carolina Governor's Appreciation Award for Outstanding Service to the Indian People of North Carolina by the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.
As a musician, he is a recording artist with several CDs including "The Traveler" and "Citizens of God's World." He was nominated in 2000 and 2001 for a Native American Music Award for best independent recording of the year. He has worked with Douglas Blue Feather, a four-time NAMMY winner on the CDs "Rollin' Like Thunder" and "Time for Truth."
Oxendine composed and performed the musical score for the 1999 docu-drama "Through Native Eyes: The Henry Berry Lowrie Story," the story of the Lumbees fight from tyranny during the 19th century.
The film and score were inducted into the American Folklife Center for the bicentennial celebration of the Library of Congress in May 2000. The film has aired on PBS and independent stations across the Southeast.
As a civil rights activist, Oxendine won a court battle in the late 1990s against the state of Ohio regarding civil rights, freedom of religion and American Indian freedom of religion.
"We, as Native Americans, are still here and always have been," Oxendine said. "We are real people with the same daily issues and daily joys of everybody else. We have a most rich history and culture and we beseech people to learn the truth about us and not rely on misinformation and erroneous stereotypes."