SIDNEY — Councilmember Joseph S. Ratermann recently completed his duties as a seasonal national park ranger.
Ratermann spent most of the season at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park near Chillicothe, Ohio, but also spent time at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration. While there, he spent time telling COSI visitors about the rich heritage of the national parks and encouraging visitors to take advantage of the many opportunities provided by the country’s 413 sites managed by the National Park Service.
“It’s been an exciting year,” Ratermann said. “In addition to working during the Park Service’s Centennial celebration, I’ve taken the opportunity to visit a number of other park sites and met some wonderful people. It’s been an amazing year!”
The “Hopewell culture” is thought to have begun around 200 B.C. It was a new Native American culture that developed and spread throughout the midwest. Hopewell culture doesn’t refer to a specific tribe. Rather, the designation refers to an artifactually-observed culture and way of life that seems to have developed simultaneously across the midwest; from Nebraska to Mississippi, Indiana to Minnesota, and from Virginia to the Hopewell culture’s epicenter in Ohio.
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park preserves five earthwork complexes. They include the High Bank Works, Hopeton Earthworks, Hopewell Mound Group, Mound City Group and Seip Earthworks.
“We know so little about the Hopewell,” Ratermann stated. “Their name itself comes from Mordecai Hopewell, a Chillicothe resident, on whose property mounds were excavated in the 1800s. We do not know what they called themselves, but it certainly wasn’t ‘Hopewell,’” Ratermann said.
“We’ve learned a great deal about them from the items they left behind, including their tools, weapons, pottery and other artifacts,” Ratermann said. “We know that they engaged in widespread travel. They utilized shells from the Gulf Coast, obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, copper from the Great Lakes region and mica from the Carolinas in their daily lives.”
“In addition, their earthworks are geometric — squares, circles, or octagons — with associated individual mounds. The earthworks show that they had an advanced knowledge of astronomy. There are also mortuary sites with earthworks enclosing conical or loaf-shaped mounds that contain burials and cremation remains,” Ratermann said.
“Some Hopewell burials have large quantities of goods, suggesting some level of hierarchy in the culture. Perhaps most interesting to me is the fact that the mounds themselves provide evidence that people from different villages could be mobilized and work together on large projects,” Ratermann said.
Ratermann, who will this month conclude his first year as a member of Sidney City Council, is a graduate of Wright State University and the George Mason School of Law. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, joined the United States Army following graduation from law school and served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Ratermann returned to Sidney following his separation from the Army. He taught social studies at his alma mater, Lehman Catholic, for two years.
“This was my first experience as a national park ranger,” Ratermann said. “The position encompassed so many of the things I have been able to do during my career: teaching visitors about the Hopewell culture; recruit young visitors to the Junior Ranger program; and, encourage visitors to discover the other parks. It’s been a wonderful experience.”