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Activities and Projects: Indian Mound Adopt-a-Spot

Update: UT and Cherokee Officials Dedicate Native American Interpretive Garden on Agriculture Campus

Indian Mound ProjectAfter receiving a Chapter Enrichment Grant for plant identification and signage for an area of the Ag Campus known as the Indian Mound, further site development has blossomed. Our chapter plans to adopt the area to not only maintain the site but to further enhance the area by installing native plants and other site appropriate features. This area receives faculty, staff, student and visitor traffic and will bring recognition to the Chapter.

Project Title Name:
Enhancing the Educational Opportunities and the Aesthetic Beauty of the Native American Interpretive Garden on the UT Agricultural Campus

Project Summary:
The Indian Mound on the UT Agricultural Campus at the corner of Joe Johnson Drive and Chapman Drive is deeply rooted in Native American tradition dating back as early as 644 AD when the Woodland People used burial mounds as a way of burying and honoring their deceased. Today, it serves as a landmark on the campus, and the surrounding green space is a valued amenity to the network of UT Gardens. In the mid 1970’s Professors Hendrick van de Werken and Don Williams (former faculty members in the Department of Ornamental Horticulture & Landscape Design) began the planning and research process for a ‘Native Plant Park’ for the green space area contiguous to the Indian Mound. Due to their efforts, the Indian Mound was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In addition, they produced a plan for the area that included native plants with an emphasis on plants used by the Cherokee, circulation paths, berms, a lawn area, seating areas, and signage. At that time, berms were constructed and several native trees were planted along with the additions of a lawn area, seating and signage.  In 2008, Dr. Fred Allen, then President of Gamma Sigma Delta (GSD) and chair of the Projects Committee, proposed that the UT Chapter take on the Indian Mound Park as a long term service project to enhance the educational opportunities and aesthetic beauty of the site by adding additional native plants with interpretive signs for plants and the Indian Mound.  The chapter approved, and on the advice of Dr. Sue Hamilton, Director of UT Gardens, Dr. Allen enlisted the help of Sam Rogers, a registered Landscape Architect and Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences to update and enhance the original plan design and concepts.

After developing the revised Master Plan (see attached) for the site, meetings have been held with several constituents to get advice and input. These meetings include the following people: (1) Dr. Joe DiPietro, Vice President, Institute of Agriculture and Dr. Jan Simek, Acting President, University of Tennessee, (2) Mr. Russell Townsend, Historic Preservation Officer, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Dr. David Cozzo, Project Director, Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources, (3) Kimberly Smith, President, Native American Student Association at UT and (4) Chief Michell Hicks, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Nathan Oliver and Zeke Cooper, Master of Landscape Architecture students.  From the above meetings we received very positive support and many helpful suggestions for the project.  In particular, Ms. Smith gave us specific suggestions on some of the species of plants to include, and to use the Cherokee name for the plant as the prominent name followed by the English common and scientific names and the description of use by the Cherokee people on the signs.  Chief Hicks also recommended that we use the Cherokee name as the prominent name for the plants, and that we place the seal of Eastern Band of the Cherokees in the center of the Council Ring.  We have incorporated all of these suggestions into the current Master Plan for the site.   

It is our goal to make the Indian Mound site one of the most attractive green spaces on the entire Knoxville campus. The site receives major “eye traffic” on a daily basis.  All of the daily campus-bus and automobile traffic on Joe Johnson Drive pass directly by the site.  In addition, the students, faculty, staff and visitors, including visitors for football, basketball and other sports events who park in the large lot adjacent to the Mound pass directly along the adjacent pathway or along the street beside it.

Because the Indian Mound and the associated native plant garden are a part of the UT Gardens, the site will receive large public exposure due to the many social events and activities planned for the Gardens. Due to its close proximity to the academic programs on campus, we believe that the site will be a valuable educational resource for many courses in plant sciences as well as other disciplines. Furthermore, we believe the site will be a valuable public outreach resource in the future via exhibits and demonstrations that focus on the Cherokee Indian culture.



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