An April 15 virtual program from Neenah Historical Society will invite Neenah residents to learn more about their community’s Native American heritage in a larger history recently uncovered on Lakeshore Avenue.
“Beneath Lakeshore Avenue” recounts the findings of an archaeological dig conducted by archaeologists from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee which took place during summer and fall 2020.
Dr. Jennifer Haas, director of the project and upcoming program speaker, found that Lakeshore Avenue was the site of a Native American Village dating back to circa 1350-1630 AD, along with traces of earlier civilizations from 400 BC to 900 AD. Haas was surprised to find how well-preserved the archaeological deposits were, despite the amount of industrial development around Lake Winnebago.
“Many sites were known to have existed along the lakeshore but have been lost or destroyed due to development,” Haas says. “The presence of archaeological deposits that have remained preserved beneath and adjacent to the road provide a unique glimpse into past lifeways.”
Neenah Historical Society Executive Director Jane Lang was involved in the investigation throughout the process.
“I kept thinking, this is really amazing, you know?” she says. “We’re discovering all of this right beneath our feet that we weren’t aware of before.”
Lang says Haas’ presentation and findings will give the community a chance to place their lives in Neenah in perspective with larger histories of indigenous groups who lived and still live in the Fox Cities.
“It will remind people that we are not the first people who have lived in this community,” Lang says. “It helps you frame your time here and think more importantly about your role in the community.”
“But I guess a fear of mine was that we would just cover it up and forget about it,” Lang says, describing the signpost project the Historical Society is working on in response to the Lakeshore Avenue findings.
That’s where the idea came from to create three informational signs along Lakeshore Avenue, along with a QR code audio walking tour. One sign would discuss Lake Winnebago’s history and impact on the people over time who have lived there, another focuses on the histories of the indigenous people who lived there and a third recounts the archaeological investigation and why that matters. Lang hopes to have the project ready by fall this year. The program will stream online on April 15 at 7 p.m. on Neenah Public Library’s Facebook page.